Russian Movie Sputnik is Surprisingly Good

Russian Movie Sputnik is Surprisingly Good - it had a decent script, with interesting characters. It wasn't over done, or bombastic. And the special effects were on point.
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Look, I say we leave the geo-political debacles to Donald Trump. I just want to talk about movies. Okay? Great. Well, today I’m bringing you a really really good little Russian indie movie that some are saying comes from the world of Alien and Life. I seriously considered bringing you guys the movie Blackout but I just couldn’t do it. (At least I don’t think I did a review of Blackout, did I?) While the special effects were brilliant, the story and the characters and the writing? All cheese. Horrible. But Sputnik figured out how to take the special effects, drive them to an appropriate level, couple that with a sedate story line, that is mainly character driven and therefore infinitely more compelling. Alright, let’s get down to it and why the Russian Movie Sputnik is surprisingly good.

But, before we get started, maybe you’ve never heard of the film Sputnik. (No, it isn’t the lunar landing conspiracy theory film Operation Avalanche.) And 99% of the film isn’t even set in space. It tells the story of two Russian cosmonauts returning from earth from a trip to space. They accidentally bring a happy little friend back to earth with them and it goes rapidly downhill from there. Here, check out the trailer:

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Quick Sputnik Walkthrough

OK – 2 guys. Return from Otter Space. Nope. Definitely not OtterSpace. Let me come in again. 2 guys, outer space. (Nailed it.) Both Russian. When Konstantin arrives back on planet earth with his copilot dead – the Russians begin to suspect that maybe he killed him and went mad on the descent. Hrm. Or something bizarre happened anyway – something they can’t explain, which is why they brought in Tatyana Klimova (played by Oksana Akinshina – whom you might know from the Borne Conspiracy I believe?) to help them sort this mess out. Tatyana, it would happen, is a psychologist with a less than official sort of way with patients. And it would appear that Colonel Semiradov might just need a less than official way of handling our dear Konstantin. 

As Tatyana begins to observe her subject, she begins to do all the normal sorts of diagnosis procedures. Yup. PTSD, I need to get back to my life now Colonel. Great. But in the middle of the night, the Colonel comes and gets Tatyana, and shows her something she won’t easily forget. She watches in a protected lab environment as a chrysalis, or a mollusk, a few feet long, wiggles its way out of our dear Konstantin’s larynx. It then rapidly sloughs the cocoon and shows itself to be an alien-esque monster. 

The next day, intrigued by whatever it is that is happening to Konstantin, Tatyana escalates their interview sessions and begins to verbally demean him. She wants to know about his endocrine profile afterwards. Why? She’s trying to understand if the alien is a parasite or a symbiote. Is the alien slowly but surely eating Konstantin away to nothing? Or is it balancing its own needs and that of Konstantin’s? But the big thing she can’t figure out is how the alien’s levels are so low in the evening, but are high again in the morning. She just can’t make heads or tails out of what she is seeing in the data. 

That is until one of the other doctors agrees to show her something. And that evening, from the back of a car, she watches as prisoners are taken in to the cage that Konstantin is housed in. She watches as the alien disgorges itself from his throat, and she watches as it rips the prisoner’s head off. It would seem that the alien particularly enjoys feeding on a human’s cortisol that is released from the victim when they see they are about to be gruesomely killed. Huh? OK. That’s an interesting twist. So, if I have this right, an alien being, chose a Russian cosmonaut as it’s host. It then began attacking humans solely for the drugs that the human body releases when it is afraid. Right. Got it.

The better part is that the Russians are certain that Konstantin is completely unaware of what is going on to him. They believe that the alien is drugging him in order to keep him unaware of the details of what is lodged in his throat, or its murderous tendencies. But when Tatyana goes for a run with Konstantin, she tells him everything, but he doesn’t react. NO REALLY – AN ALIEN – THERE! IN YOUR GULLET! Nope. Nothing. Why? Because he already knew. The alien has already made Konstantin complicit in its nightly murderous rampages. And in return, the alien has helped heal Konstantin from his crash injuries. It would seem we have something of a symbiotic relationship going on…and is our dearest Konstantin beginning to enjoy the taste of blood? Hrmm. Something weird is happening here. And I’m beginning to think that this isn’t an Alien-esque type film, but could it be more in line with a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde setup? (Oh, by the way, I was fascinated by the movie that Konstantin was watching, and it would appear to be the movie Per Aspera Ad Astra – a Russian film about… Oh, you can read about it here.)

“I am that creature without morals or obligations.”

Well, Tatyana might just have lost sight of the bigger picture here, because she is hell-bent on removing the monster from her patient’s mouth, and attempting to save his life. Huh? Did she see the same monster I saw? I’m personally of the mind that the best approach for handling Konstantin Vehnyakov is to bump him into a fully operational wood chipper. I don’t know…maybe that’s just me? But right now, the Colonel is seems to be so focused on perfecting a weapon in order to tip the scales of our 80’s Cold War that he’s also missing the bigger picture. You know, like the moral one. But whatever. I can’t save everyone in this movie.

The next night though – during the alien’s feeding, the Colonel has invited Tatyana to see it the proper way. But when she decides that morally, she can’t deal with being a party to murder, she walks into the cage and stands between the alien and its dinner. She knows that as long as she doesn’t show fear (are you kidding? that thing is a black mamba and a king cobra rolled into one!) the alien won’t touch her. She also knows that there is a link there between the alien and the monster – and she’s betting on that link to stay alive. But as the convict backs away from the monster it hits the cage and makes a noise. Because of course. And the monster wheels on the man and kills him.

Interestingly enough – Konstantin’s copilot had an undetectable cancer, and because of his large doses of cortisol that he was expressing in his system – lead the alien to select Konstantin. Which leads me to believe the best use for the alien would be as an early stage cancer detector at large hospitals. I mean, I don’t see anything that could go wrong with that particular plan. But, it does give Tatyana an idea on how to separate the monster from Konstantin – by giving him a cocktail dosage of hormones that would imitate the effect of Addison’s disease. But, what if the alien had acclimatized to earth now? And had grown enough to survive on its own? That’d be kinda bad, wouldn’t it? Don’t think – love has no bounds!! Love will find a way! You guys are way way too critical! No, you are 100% right, this was a right horrible idea. Think about it. Just for 3 seconds. She is going to heist an alien that looks like this, and maybe release it into the wild?

But regardless – Tatyana has a bigger problem on her hands. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE A BIGGER PROBLEM THAN THAT TAYLOR!?!? Good question actually. But her bigger problem is that Konstantin isn’t 100% certain he wants to be separated from the monster. Is he the Clark Kent to his dark Superman? What is happening here? But his comment about being freed of morality, to do anything he wants to do, takes it to a moral equation. Right? It tosses away the special effects, and the questions about space alien morality, and means that this movie is a metaphor for something different. I’m just not sure I’ve got my finger on it yet. But then Konstantin flips the script and says that this is his punishment. That the alien chose him as a verdict on his life – as a judgement for abandoning his son. Hrm. OK. So then if that is what is happening, he is evil, this is a physical manifestation of his dark soul? Is that what we have going on now? Hrm.

Alright, so Tatyana and Konstantin bolt and make a break for it with the help of Rigel’s car (shhh, it’s a side plot – he’s a scientist and wanted a Nobel, but then realizes his error, because Tatyana calls him out on his immorality and spinelessness, so he helps them.). But in the process, Konstantin unleashes the beast on a pile of military police chasing them down. Tatyana was shot on the way out. But the two make a run for it sans alien. Eventually though, Tatyana realizes that Konstantin isn’t going to make it. She drags him out onto the road to see what is wrong, and as she does, the Colonel arrives. He’s got the alien. And several military personnel in tow as well. The Colonel brings the alien over towards Konstantin. Right? Opens the box. (And he thought this was going to go well, why?) 13 seconds later the Colonel and all his men are all dead. And as the film ends, the alien reenters Konstantin, and he then says his goodbyes – and shoots himself.

The Trick Switch of Sputnik

Now, as the movie progressed from beginning to end, we kept getting shown snippets of a handicapped boy’s life. He continues to try and run. He continues to try to get away. And eventually he gets this package that turns out to be shoes. But simultaneously, we watch as Tatyana goes to adopt Konstantin’s boy. These two threads are revealing simultaneously. The boy in the wheelchair, and her arrival to adopt. But then, at the last second, we learn that in fact, this isn’t a boy at all. This was Tatyana as a child, it was a flashback of her own story. And we then see Konstantin’s boy and Tatyana united. The end. (Yeah, it was a clever trick, but it felt a bit bolted on to me. To you? Hrmm.)

Alright – I think the rest of this post will be a downward spiral of morality questions with the Patreon subscribers… Thanks – and be sure to tell me whether you enjoyed this movie half as much as I did!

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The Morality Questions of Sputnik

Now that they are gone… This movie tells the story of something completely other than what you think it’s about. “Dude, it’s about an alien, and it’s awesome. It kills a bunch of Russians that deserved it.” That happens, yes, but that isn’t what it’s about. It’s 100% about our guilt and inner desire for moral freedom. A chance to be unbound. It’s about our attempt, and failure at supplanting God. “Uh. Dude. Chill. That ending was SICK!! The monster-alien flew through the air and sliced the colonel’s head clean in half!!! RIGHTEOUS!” OK, sir, you need to step away from the blow.

Think about it. Why did Konstantin have to die? He should have been allowed to find his way out of this situation with Tatyana’s help. Basically he had to die (whether through suicide or some other method) as a result of his losing to the darkness within. The oneness with the monster. That’s just a metaphor for sin. It’s a metaphor for his desire to embrace sin, and the darkness. He had tasted, and fell in love, with his moral freedom and enjoyed it a bit too much. His death to the darkness was a sign that he couldn’t be saved from it now that he’d been touched by it. And Tatyana? Why was she allowed to live? Solely because she took no part in the murder of the prisoners, and not only that, but she was the only one working to stop the evil that was rampant within the Russian system.

Remember. Movies, all movies, follow moral rules to a T. They are required by the audience to mete out justice. We will not allow the sinner to go unpunished. We won’t buy tickets for movies that don’t take morality seriously because it seems unfair. And audiences want “fairness” above all other desires. Even more so that the romantic interests of the protagonists. Judgement must be sure, and swift. Thus the Colonel met his fate at the hands of the alien. Thus Tatyana, the only good person in the movie, adopts Konstantin’s child. I thought it was a fun little movie. And had some interesting little caveats to it that were fun to think about.


Edited by: CY