The Blackout: Invasion Earth

**1/2

Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Blackout: Invasion Earth
"The Blackout is a film that bites off more than it can chew but gamely declines to spit any of it out, giving the impression that it meant to do that."

The alien invasion will not be televised.

Oleg (Aleksey Chadov) is in a hotel room sleeping with a stranger, Alyona (Lukerya Ilyashenko), when it happens. When they go down to the lobby, they see a newscaster on the big screen there frantically trying to get out a warning. Communication links to other cities are blinking out. Nobody can reach them. Could this be a nuclear war? Then the screen goes blank. People begin to panic. Many of them have loved ones elsewhere. They're anxious to know what has happened to them - and if whatever it is is coming for them next.

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Oleg is a military man and knows what he has to do. Before long he's joined the troops who are guarding the border of the area of Eastern Europe which, mysteriously, still seems to be unaffected (the reason for this, when we get to it, proves to be one of the silliest ideas in the whole film). Across the rest of the globe, the lights have gone out. Scouting parties venturing out into the darkness have not returned. When an attack comes, it takes an unexpected form, and our heroes are seriously rattled. Meanwhile, a boy begins to have strange visions which suggest he might be psychically connected to an alien force. Can anyone manage to put the pieces together in time?

Some strong ideas in the early part of the film are followed by a lot of fairly pointless running around trying not to get killed in a concrete new town, standard stuff for this kind of actioner and neither narratively nor stylistically creative enough to hold much interest, despite vague attempts at looking futuristic. One nice touch is the addition of a quadruped robot which follows its squad of humans around like a dog and manages a impressive leap at one point, reminding us how far technology has advanced in recent years whilst the squad leader's grip on a female journalist reminds us how far parts of Russian society haven't.

Later the story picks up again and turns into a science fiction thriller that asks us to decide who we should trust, with what might best be described as a theological twist at the end. Parts of this are nicely played. The alien effects work well, even if they look like a video game, and there are one or two genuinely unsettling moments. Again, there's a nice idea behind the alien plan, but overall the narrative suffers from lack of attention to detail. It's harder to appreciate its large scale achievements when it's full of small holes.

Culminating in a scene designed to invoke wonder as much as fear - and with a conclusion that suits the sentimental trend which has recently dominated Russia's genre epics (but will leave fans of Galaxy Quest feeling nervous), The Blackout is a film that bites off more than it can chew but gamely declines to spit any of it out, giving the impression that it meant to do that. It's clumsily paced in places and relies a lot on the preexisting assumptions of fans, but at its best it's still a pretty good action romp with bigger than average ideas.

Reviewed on: 26 Dec 2020
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The Blackout: Invasion Earth packshot
Life on Earth is rapidly destroyed except for a small area in Eastern Europe.

Director: Egor Baranov, Nathalia Hencker

Writer: Ilya Kulikov

Starring: Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Svetlana Ivanova, Lukerya Ilyashenko

Year: 2019

Runtime: 127 minutes

Country: Russia

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