Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

"It's fascinating to see the usual Ground Control US politics switched out for Russian concerns."

We get so used to the dominance of English-language and, particularly, American cinema in the mainstream that it's easy to forget that it isn't just the language that has the upper hand - but also the stories. Get off the planet and - outside the arena of genre science-fiction - the dominance is even more great. This is one of the reasons why Klim Shipenko's Salyut-7 is such a treat.

Not only does it view an Apollo 13-style mission from an entirely Russian cosmonaut perspective - even going so far as to briefly feature a couple of US astronauts waving nonchalantly from a distance to the heroes of the drama - Shipenko's film is a match for US output in terms of its look and technical skill.

Copy picture

The plot elements feel familiar - the space station that has lost touch with ground control, the forcibly retired cosmonaut (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), who is called back for one last mission to rescue it, the inexperienced co-pilot (Pavel Derevyanko) who finally gets his shot at going into space because he has the engineering skills to get the station working again. But despite the familiarity, there is a genuine sense of the unknown for non-Russian audiences, who are likely to be unfamiliar with the Salyut-7 story - it must be said that the tale has also been 'beefed' up with some additional incident, although Schipenko says that all the events here occurred in one Soviet mission or another.

It's fascinating to see the usual Ground Control US politics switched out for Russian concerns, including the fear that a foreign power will get hold of the stricken station and, with it, Soviet technology. There's also a real sense of cultural difference in some of the motifs used, such as the recurring appearance of the 1980 Olympic mascot bear Mishka (the action is set in 1985). It's also hard to imagine a US filmmaker having the nerve to include one of the best moments here - the sight of one cosmonaut sparking up a ciggie in space. The cinematography by Sergey Astakhov and Ivan Burlakov, approaches Gravity accomplishment, on a fraction of the budget.

The one element that let's the film down from a non-Russian audience is the constantly surging score, which is the aural equivalent of your gran grabbing your arm at key moments and telling you how you should be feeling. The composer changed around three months before the release of the film and you can't help but wonder if the original choice refused to amp up the music in the way test audiences wanted.

Reviewed on: 13 Dec 2017
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Cosmonauts try to dock with a rogue space station and bring it back to earth.

Director: Klim Shipenko

Writer: Aleksey Chupov, Jeffrey Hylton, Natalya Merkulova, Aleksey Samolyotov, Klim Shipenko

Starring: Lyubov Aksyonova, Ilya Andryukov, Pavel Derevyanko, Oksana Fandera, Vasiliy Ignatich, Vitaliy Khaev, Sergey Korenkov, Natalya Kudryashova, Vladimir Matveev, Mariya Mironova, Nikita Panfilov, Leonid Paranin, Stepan Patnikov, Roman Perelygin, Polina Rudenko

Year: 2017

Runtime: 111 minutes

Country: Russia


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