Sputnik (Спутник)

Soviet Kazakhstan, late 1984, the Orbit 4 capsule has de-orbited and fallen back to Earth after a long mission in space, aboard it Cosmonauts Konstantin Veshnyakov and Kirill Averchenko. The sole survivor of the crash, Veshnyakov has no memory of the disaster, but as a hero of the Soviet Union he cannot simply be made to vanish and an explanation must be found for the death of his comrade and the failure of the mission.

Neurophysiologist Tatyana Yuryevna Klimova is approached by Colonel Semiradov who intervenes in her disciplinary hearing to request her help in breaking through his amnesia where conventional means have failed; unorthodox and determined, he is aware she will not be coaxed, but he has need of someone who can meet the patient on an equal footing: “Orders are not effective for highly intelligent people.”

At a remote military base where manual labour is carried out by convicted criminals Tatyana meets Konstantin, but the hostility of the lead researcher and the evident gaps in information hamper her efforts at diagnosis and treatment, and for all his charm neither is Konstantin entirely what he seems. Is this the same man who went to space, and can Tatyana trust him or anyone else in the facility?

The directorial debut of Egor Abramenko from a script by Oleg Malovichko and Andrei Zolotarev, Sputnik (Спутник) is a science fiction horror film whose casual acknowledgement of its debt to Alien is a false lead, the early parallels swiftly moving in a direction closer to The Quatermass Experiment played out on the other side of the Iron Curtain against the stark functionality of Soviet architecture on the barren steppe.

Built around the performances of The Bourne Supremacy‘s Oksana Akinshina and The Darkest Hour‘s Pyotr Fyodorov as Tatyana and Konstantin, she is urgent and sympathetic as she tries to determine whether the organism he hosts is symbiote or parasite, while Semiradov (Fyodor Bondarchuk, an actor with a thirty year career yet perhaps better known as the director of Attraction) hovers on the cusp of allowing the potential for a weapon to overshadow his humanity.

Indelibly bearing the hallmarks of Russian science fiction cinema, the bleak clinical detachment of Solaris as Tatyana tries to comprehend something beyond Earthly experience for which there is no precedent, Sputnik evolves to become closer to Splice as it becomes apparent that the universal goal of all life is the same: to survive, whatever the cost.

Sputnik crashes down on digital platforms on Friday 14th August



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