All jokes aside, a movie like Sputnik is designed to do exactly what it says on the box. The story follows a survivor of a rather unique spaceship crash and discovers something made it home with him. There are two ways you can look at a story like this, which may vary on your likeness. The first being a classic “B-Movie” in the vein of something like Aliens meets Jaws with more violence. The second being an allegory as to the secrets and shadiness of any form of country's government (in this case Russia). What we get here is a film that’s a lot of fun and isn’t anything more than that.
Filled in with an entirely Russian cast, it helps make the film be grounded in as much a reality as possible. In a film like this, most audiences will know what they’re getting into when they choose to watch. We get scientific explanations of things that don’t always ring true or even make a lot of sense. Even when the science falls flat, the real highlight here comes down to one thing I love—the tone and action in the film's more gnarly and grisly moments. Moments like these are where the film fires on all cylinders due to its somewhat over-the-top nature. That may not be everyone’s ideal type of film-watching experience, but it does what it has set out to accomplish.
The issues with a film like this aren’t admittedly the normal ones I run into with this genre film fair. I cannot tell if this is intentional or not, but it seems as if there is a lot of subtext in regards to a nation's politics. There is an argument to be made about director Abramenko commenting on the culture of the scientific field. Many discussions about ethics/morals of what the human infused alien could do for the government bring forward interesting questions. This is what surprised me the most about the film. The discussions about what this could mean for Russia are something unique and unexpected in this type of story.
In short, it’s the possibilities of real-world applications that I found to be incredibly gripping. The film is lean, mean, precise and knows exactly the type of story it wants to tell without overplaying its hand. Its only downfall for me is somewhat of a spoiler, so I will only say one thing. There is a subplot involving a child that feels incredibly wedged into a rather effective monster movie. It was not a detractor for me, but a nuisance that I didn’t really see serving any purpose to the overall narrative. A movie like this doesn’t need to try and have an emotional center, audiences just came to see a fun monster movie.
There’s a lot to like in "Sputnik" with actually quite a bit to say on its mind about government interference in possible breakthroughs. While not all of it lands, there are plenty of great moments of carnage for it that make it worth the two-hour runtime. Where the “satire” fails, there are great moments of action that will make genre fans pump their fists. This film comes to demand on Aug. 14, but I want to give a recommendation on how you view it. If you are near a drive-in playing this film, please see it that way. With a big crowd (even in cars) you’ll have a good time. Also, a big thank you to the kind folks at IFC films for sending me this screener link!
Watch the trailer here.