Thursday, July 26, 2018


Finding yourself with a surprisingly short day at the film festival and deciding to fit another movie in there may be signs that You Have A Problem, but I offer two things in my defense: First, it was a rainy evening but my rented apartment would probably be too hot to stay in. Second, when someone contrives to open a 3D movie about real-life adventure in Earth orbit within walking distance of where I am staying, you'd better believe that I'm going to see it. Quite honestly, Fantasia is lucky that I'd already seen Believer and am not really a "Small Gauge Trauma" person, because otherwise I might skip something on the schedule.

Some time I'm going to get up the guts to propose a 3D film festival to the Frame One Theatres guys - an event for screen #1 at Arlington to complement Somerville's 70mm festival - and this will probably make the list of foreign discoveries to include, maybe as a double-feature with Gravity. I know a lot of people don't care for 3D, but, darn it, this space-based films is one of the reasons why we have it, and why would you want to deny yourself that?

Anyway, if you're in Canada, it's worth checking out - the Cineplex Forum in Montreal appears to have to for another week, at least - and this might be a fine time to actually use the Amazon link on the article if you're in the U.S. (I haven't checked Netflix or any other services because I don't subscribe to them and I'm in Canada right now anyway). I mean, who doesn't like this stuff?


* * * (out of four)
Seen 25 July 2018 in Cineplex Forum #14 (first-run, RealD 3D DCP)

As someone who was 11 years old and into space in 1985, I feel like I should remember the mission portrayed in this film more clearly (or at all); as someone who likes movies now, I'm grateful that I happened to be in Canada during the right window to catch it on the big screen, as it seems to have gone straight to streaming services in the United States. It's a terrific story and if the movie sometimes seems a bit dry, that's more because astronauts (or, in this case, cosmonauts) tend to be extraordinarily capable people rather than the situation not being dramatic.

Though the film is based upon actual events, it does change characters' surnames, fudge the timeline a bit, and apparently enhance the drama, starting by showing a micrometeorite impact on the Soviet Salyut-7 space station that causes it to shut down and lose contact with Earth while uninhabited in between missions. Simply abandoning it is not an option, as the station would fit neatly in the cargo hold of an American space shuttle (and the latest mission would include a French astronaut who had previously visited Salyut-7), so a mission is hastily prepped with engineer Victor Alekhin (Pavel Derevyanko) and commander Vladimir Fedorov (Vladimir Vdovichenkov), who had been grounded for claiming to see angels on his previous spacewalk, but is probably the only pilot who could manually dock a Soyuz capsule with the station, which is spinning on all three axes at a rate of over 1 degree per second. On the ground, Valery Shudin (Aleksandr Samoylenko) tries to give them the support they need, although many in the military advise shooting the station down before the Americans can recover it.

I am, I admit, a little disappointed to discover after a quick visit to Wikipedia that this film takes plenty of liberties with actual events, although another part of me is willing to accept the story being told because it is great drama and because few individual moments play like something unlikely or simple bad science. The filmmakers present a believable set of cascading disasters, smart solutions, and cold-war concerns that make for a thrilling film. It's a vivid illustration of just how many things must be carefully attended to for manned space exploration to work, and the incredibly thin margins when something goes wrong. It may not have really happened this way, but it certainly could have, so the tension on display is real.

Full review at EFC.

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