Sputnik: A more interesting watch than recent Hollywood alien films

Sleekly packaged with well-paced horror set-pieces, it’s easy to see why film is a hit in its native Russia

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Director: Egor Abramenko
Cert: Club
Genre: Sci-Fi
Starring: Oksana Akinshina, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasiliev
Running Time: 1 hr 53 mins

It’s 1983 and cosmonaut Konstantin Veshnyakov (Pyotr Fyodorov) returns from a space mission with an injured fellow cosmonaut, an unexpected passenger, and amnesia. Konstantin, who has likely killed his colleague, is being held in a military facility run by Semiradov (Fedor Bondarchuk). Unorthodox doctor Tatyana Klimova (Lilya 4-ever’s Oksana Akinshina) is drafted in to find out what just happened in space. As the nifty tagline - ‘Man has A New Inhabitant’ -  suggests, Konstantin is playing host to an alien lifeform that lives inside his body, but slithers out through his mouth at night.

There is, remarkably, an even nastier detail for the doctor to uncover.

Another week, another film in thrall to Ridley Scott’s Alien. Sputnik doesn’t always work but it’s more interesting to watch than recent Hollywood alien-alike contenders Life and Underwater.

Egor Abramenko’s debut feature adds interesting textures to this familiar formula with its Soviet Union setting and a creature that is a symbiote rather than a parasite proper.


Sadly, the narrative possibilities for that central organic partnership – an arrangement that gifted several series of material to Star Trek: Deep Space 9 – are squandered on a sentimental tale of fatherly dereliction and a second act that goes nowhere fast.

Strangely melodramatic developments and hints of a quasi-romance between doctor and patient make for a muddle of diversions.

Against that, the strangely Gremlin-like monster is a clever ruse, suggesting a mischievousness that never comes. Watching the creature exit the host body makes for a genuinely unnerving sight.

Sleekly packaged with Oleg Karpachev’s earnest score, well-paced horror set-pieces and Hollywood-worthy visuals, it’s easy to see why Sputnik has dominated the streaming services in its native Russia.

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic