Attraction

***1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Attraction
"Fedor Bonarchuk blends blockbuster stylings with a cultural critique which, he has said, he considers to have present day relevance far beyond Russia's borders."

Every time there is a peacetime attack involving aircraft, people start asking why they are not shot down. Sometimes, in fact, they are, but the decision is never an easy one. When they fall out of the sky, they land on something. In this case that something is a Moscow housing estate.

Complicating things further is the fact that this is not an aircraft but a spacecraft, and nobody knows if it intended to attack. It just appeared above Russia and the military didn't want to take chances. On the ground, responsible for isolating the crashed vessel and trying to establish peaceful communication, is Colonel Lebedev (a superb Oleg Menshikov). As he tries to open negotiations and discourage his superiors from taking further hostile action, however, Lebedev has to deal with restless locals who resent the damage to their neighbourhood and the deaths of friends. They include his own daughter.

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Although it packs in enough explosions in the first 15 minutes to put Independence Day to shame (without the US obsession with blowing up famous things), Attraction is grounded in social observation in the tradition of Russian science fiction. Fedor Bonarchuk - son of the legendary War And Peace director Sergei Bondarchuck - blends blockbuster stylings with a cultural critique which, he has said, he considers to have present day relevance far beyond Russia's borders. This is a film about the importance of reason and empathy, and about the dangers of populism - with gunfights, espionage, romance, and some spectacular mêlée scenes. It's perfectly suited to the Fantasia audience and has the potential to change the way Russian films are looked at around the world.

Most of the action centres around teenagers - bored, poverty-stricken, growing up with older relatives who yearn for a supposedly glorious past. They have been taught throughout their lives that there is nothing more virtuous than coming to the defence of the homeland, and now, with aliens in their midst, they are being told to go home and act as if nothing has happened. Yulia (Irina Starshenbaum) is not impressed, and accompanies her rabble-rousing boyfriend Artyom (Alexander Petrov) into the quarantine zone, looking for trouble. But after an encounter with an alien (Rinal Mukhametov) who saves her life, she changes her perspective, becoming determined to help him no matter what the authories - or Artyom - try to do.

If you like the idea of watching an updated version of The Day The Earth Stood Still, ignore the awful Keanu Reeves remake and give Attraction a try. It's similarly sentimental and it packs in a good number of clichés, but there's a charming sincerity about it, and a good bit of bang for your buck.

Reviewed on: 30 Jul 2017
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Attraction packshot
The teenage daughter of a military chief bonds with an alien after his spacecraft is shot down.


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