“Sputnik” is an original feeling Russian sci-fi, showing that a smaller budget doesn’t sacrifice the ability to be clever and suspenseful. With a low budget of less than 3 million dollars, “Sputnik” manages to deliver a compelling genre piece that subverts expectations and is exceedingly better than many of its counterparts.
The trailer for “Sputnik” is noteworthy because it teases a horrifying thriller that the viewer needs to brace for. But it is much smarter than that advertised image. Rather than have a straight line of plot progression one might expect to occur revolving around an alien lifeform, the movie flips the audiences’ allegiances with several twists. This keeps the film engaging, avoiding the ease that other films might have fallen into with more traditional plot structure.
Even the film’s title is cleverly imbued with meaning. While those with minor knowledge of the space race might know that the Sputnik probe was the first satellite sent by the USSR into space in 1957, the film takes place in the 1980’s, and the word is actually meant to be a direct allusion to the plot of the film. Sputnik in Russian means a “fellow traveler or attendant”, but in the astrological context it means “satellite” i.e. something that revolves around a larger host object. This double meaning captures the symbiotic relationship of the focus alien creature.
An eerie ambient soundtrack, relic soviet feeling architecture, and good editing give the film true muscle in all the right places to supplement a well written story. While “Sputnik” succeeds where it ventures, that effort is also necessarily constrained by its minimalist budget and minor plot holes.