By David Dent
Russian sci fi movies may not be plentiful in number but they’re often interesting, a case in point being Egor Abramenko’s 2020 movie ‘Sputnik’; Egor Baranov and Nathalia Hencker’s epic feature is that rare thing; a blockbuster with some lofty ideas behind it.
When most of the world is plunged into darkness, with its citizens mysteriously dying, the only area where life – and power – remain is a circle around Moscow. The militia send recon squads to explore beyond the circle; the parties disappear without trace.
As is usual in these things, a small group of soldiers and civilians band together to understand just what the devil has happened, and who is responsible, while we slowly get to know them. The group in this case includes soldier Oleg (Alexsey Chadov) who at the start of the movie has a one-night stand with a woman, Alyona (Lukerya Ilyashenko) who turns out to be head of the army medical services, and another soldier Yuriy (Pyotr Fyodorov) who forms a will they-won’t they relationship with a press reporter, Marina (Kseniya Kutepova).
The source of the disturbance is complicated; there are aliens involved but not in the standard invasion plot that you’d expect. This is to be a multi-phase attack, which allows the story to remain interesting by constantly introducing narrative curve balls, including the arrival of a mysterious person called Id (Artyom Tkachenko) who may be either hero or villain, but is the key to understanding the nature of the attack.
Before long things get pretty odd: some folks are imbued with superhero powers following the first wave of the invasion. There are riots on the streets, and after a while things go a bit ‘Chariots of the Gods.’ But it’s all superbly entertaining and intricately plotted.
But the real star of the show is the look of the thing. There’s a definite ‘Blade Runner’ vibe to the city scapes and the film’s hardware is a brilliant combination of mostly seamless CGI and practical stuff. Some scenes really stay in the memory; an attack on a military base by hundreds of rampaging bears, for example, or the aftermath of a massive power beam that literally carves out a hollow through a city.
And the final scenes, shot inside the mother ship (which comes to ground in a subtle but eye-popping way) although reminiscent of ‘Alien’, are taken to gravity defying extremes; and if the final shot suggests the possibility of a sequel, I for one am certainly up for that.
THE BLACKOUT: INVASION EARTH WILL BE RELEASED ON 28th DECEMBER ON BLU-RAY, DVD AND DIGITAL PLATFORMS