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Salyut 7 film review: Russian space epic is edge-of-the-seat retelling of a mission impossible

In similar gripping vein to Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, this Russian thriller highlights the heroism and desperation of Soviet-era cosmonauts tasked with a first docking of an unmanned object in space

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 7:01am
UPDATED : Saturday, 24 February, 2018, 7:00am

4/5 stars

Billed as “a Russian Gravity”, Klim Shipenko’s Salyut 7 is the thrilling retelling of one of the most technically complicated space missions in human history. When the Soviets lose contact with their orbiting space station, it prompts a never-before-attempted mission to dock with an unmanned object in space.

Unspooling at the height of the cold war, the Soviets not only risk losing a highly advanced piece of technology, should the Salyut 7 come hurtling back to Earth, but also horrific casualties if it crashed in a populated area. Of even greater concern is the loss of face to the Americans, who were hurrying to launch their own Challenger Space Shuttle.

Any Russian space film is cursed to exist in the shadow of Andrei Tarkovsky’s existential masterpiece Solaris, but Salyut 7 holds its own by keeping its feet firmly on the ground, even as its characters drift thousands of miles above the Earth.

Vladimir Vdovichenkov and Pavel Derevyanko, as the cosmonauts tasked with this mission, strike a perfect balance between granite-faced heroism and fallible desperation, while carrying a playful degree of disdain for their superiors and even each other.

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The film actually shares more in common with Ron Howard’s Apollo 13, as both champion the humbling resilience of the human spirit, when faced with the failures of our most advanced technological achievements.

Shifting between the smoke-filled offices of Ground Control and the icy confines of the defunct space station, Shipenko has created a claustrophobic and unrelentingly tense experience, further heightened by gorgeous cinematography, strong effects work, and a stirring score that accentuates the overall epic scale.

Salyut 7 opens on March 1

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