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Sputnik 2020 ****

Is it just me, or does Russia calling their proposed virus vaccine Sputnik ring all the wrong bells? Not that there’s anything inherently bad about the phrase ‘fellow traveller’, which is what Sputnik means, but it’s also the title of this alarming sci-fi/horror movie, which hits UK cinemas with good timing as cinemas seek to re-spawn their audiences. Wait, surely countries aren’t going to name their own individual vaccine after their last good horror film? In Scotland, ours would probably be called Wicker Man…

But this is a good horror film. Pyotr Fyodorov plays Konstantin, a space hero returning to Earth circa 1983, who brings a little something extra home with him, in the style of The Quatermass Experiment. His fellow cosmonaut is torn apart, but Konstantin seems fine. Except he’s harbouring a parasite or symbiote, an alien creature which is using his body as a space-suit, and needs to come out to feast on human beings at night. Maverick doctor Tatyana Yuryevna Klimova (Oksana Akinshina) is sent to a high security compound to try and save the space hero, but she discovers that the human and alien are permanently linked, co-existing in a way that cannot be separated…

Egor Abramenko’s thriller has plenty of familiar elements; remade, this could pass as an off-brand Alien sequel, or even fit into the Cloverfield universe. But Sputnik is also a smart film, taking cues from heroine Tatyana. She’s intelligent, and whether she’s making her initial assessment of her subject’s mental acuity with the help of a coffee cup, or zeroing in on editing jumps within the footage of the creature leaving the host body, she makes for a great focus for audience identification, while Fyodor Bondarchuk enjoys a sinister role as overseeing Colonel Semiradov. And although there are some truly disturbing visuals from the get-go, this is a remarkably restrained film that entertains and thrills. The gelid alien creature is more talked about than seen, but doesn’t disappoint when it turns up.

If you’re a fan of the Alien or Cloverfield franchises, Sputnik should be on your ‘don’t miss’ list; it’s well mounted and performed, but also brings something new to the party. There’s vestiges of the brainy sci-fi or Tarkovsky and Stanislaw Lem here, mixed with the gnarly DNA of HR Giger. It might not be the summer blockbuster you were waiting for, but as an experience in the dark, the absorbingly nasty-ass Sputnik sticks a difficult landing with some precision.

Sputnik hits UK cinemas from August 14th 2020.

Thanks to Vertigo for advance access to this title.

 

Comments

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  1. Will be looking out for this. Thanks for the heads-up. I’m already booked for Pinocchio following your review. Though who I am I guess you’ll never know.

  2. Russia, has invented vaccine of Corona virus. Streaming,did you know Russia’s first satellite artificial was also named Sputnik 1957. I wish it work well , people get rid to this pandemic instantly.

    • Thanks! I was aware, but it’s a very clever title that reflects on the 1950’s success of Soviet space programme, but also suggest how the alien creature in this film operates!

    • I wwasn’t sure what I’d think of it, some Russian sci-fi is hard-going, but I know there’s many of love the Alien vibe, and this really does what most of the sequels don’t; enjoy!

  3. This is the second time in the span of two days that I see a review of this film. The first review already made me add it to my to watch list, and after seeing this one, it’s only moving up a few spaces as I definitely love these kinds of films. Terrific review as always!😊

    • I really dug it! Better than most of the Alien sequels, it’s got a great look and feel, but also doesn’t leave you banging your head off the wall with daft plotting. Doesn’t have the poetry of a Tarkovsky sci-fi, but there’s decent scares and action, and the whole thing just works. I know subtitles will put some people off, but it’s worth sticking with it! Thanks as always for the comment; I went straight to Pete and gave him a like on your recommend, will go back and have a proper look later!

      • Well…I have absolutely no trouble with subtitles as pretty much everything I watch has subtitles lol 😂 But yeah, this one really sounds quite good!
        As for Pete, thank you very much, I’m sure he will definitely appreciate it😀

  4. What you wrote about the movie sounds familiar, so much so that it reminded me of Life, which is basically a soft remake of Alien (I didn’t find it original at all). But if you say that there’s something new in Sputnik, I’m in!

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