Space is big, space is cold, and space is largely empty, which may be why there is an attraction to the rare oases of warmth and light such as the planet Earth, six heptillion kilograms of rock, water, gas and vapour orbiting one hundred and fifty million kilometres from an average G-type main-sequence star known by its seven billion inhabitants as Sol, or more commonly, the Sun.
Yulia Lebedeva (Irina Starshenbaum, Ирина Старшенбаум) grew up looking at the sky with her mother who dreamed that they were not alone, that the stars were the eyes of angels looking down on them. Now her mother is gone, and while her father undoubtedly loves her, the stern Military Governor of Moscow Colonel Valentin Lebedev (Oleg Menshikov, Оле́г Ме́ньшиков) is not given to such flights of fancy.
Fearful of drunken crowds and low railings, her father forbids her to go with her friends to watch the meteor shower, but predictably Yulia sneaks out anyway with her boyfriend Artyom (Alexander Petrov, Александр Петров) and her best friend Svetlana but the display is far more than anyone could have expected.
High above the planet an alien vessel is struck by a meteor, tumbling into the atmosphere where it is picked up on radar as an unknown and possibly hostile intruder approaching Russian airspace. Fighters are launched and the intruder is struck by a missile, losing altitude and ploughing through the tower blocks of the suburbs of Moscow before coming to rest, over two hundred dead, five hundred hospitalised and many more missing and unaccounted for.
Directed by Stalingrad‘s Fedor Bondarchuk (Фёдор Бондарчу́к) and with screenings at the Edinburgh International Film Festival and London’s Russian Film Week, Attraction (Притяжение) places itself as an epic science fiction disaster with a refreshingly down-to-Earth flavour distinct from American equivalents such as Independence Day: Resurgence, much of the story told from the ground and conveyed through mobile phones and news bulletins.
Filmed with a pallor of decay about it, of sickness, it emphasises how quickly the dust has settled on their lives, a shroud which has fallen across the city. Even as her father tries to explain to his superiors that the casualties were a consequence of the alien vessel being shot down by their own forces rather than a hostile act he is appointed to take charge of the volatile situation, while Yulia herself is angry and seeking revenge.
Understandable and human perhaps, but foolish in the circumstances when faced with an extraterrestrial agency of unknown power which only wishes to be left alone to complete repairs and leave, but even as circumstances bring her into contact with one of the visitors, Hekon (Rinal Mukhametov, Риналь Мухаметов), Artyom becomes a voice of misinformed and misdirected rage.
A very different vision of Russia than the patriotic bravado presented in Guardians, here the short-tempered police lash out at protesters who are only too happy to be provoked to riot, becoming their own worst enemies who bring it on themselves, yet recent history has proven how easily the inflammatory lie can spark the fire of hatred, that emotion burns faster and hotter than reason.
While there are moments which verge on teenage slapstick and others which require suspension of disbelief – extraterrestrials conveniently having terrestrial blood types and Yulia pulling stunts to distract daddy’s attention to steal a security pass – there are also moments of magic, the visitor’s affinity for water, passed to Yulia in the gift given her by Hekon.
With the action sequences and effects impressive and authentic, former actor Bondarchuk draws good performances from his leads, particularly the fiery Petrov who stands out against the more reserved attitudes of the adults who try to contain the situation, but with the masses too happy to drink from the gushing river of prejudice and stupidity Attraction is aware that humanity itself can be a problem yet manages to be optimistic despite this bleak framework.
Attraction is on general release from Friday 19th January