I.S.S. isn’t much of a stretch as tensions flare on the International Space Station as war breaks out between the United States and Russia.
Gabriela Cowperthwaite directs a tense thriller that will have audiences sitting on the edge of their seats. I.S.S. feels like one of those films that could have been ripped from the headlines. Interestingly enough, the film’s production notes point out that the Russian invasion of Ukraine started after they went into production. But anyway, the conflict on the ground soon finds its way on board the space station. American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts quickly receive their orders to take control of the station. From this moment on out, the film is in full-on thriller mode.
Call it incredible foresight or what you will but Nick Shafir’s screenplay has no shortage of thrills in a film that feels rather timely and relevant. I’m not sure how realistic I.S.S. in terms of the fights and such in the film. However, one can only hope that no such fights have broken out since the invasion. It would really be a shame if life imitated art. It’s funny though–the I.S.S. became a thing only because the Cold War ended. Look at what the countries can do when there isn’t any fighting! Anyway, Gabriela Cowperthwaite captures the humanity, or lack thereof, in bringing, Shafir’s vision to the screen. Knowing what’s happening on the ground, how quickly will it be until the situation begins deteriorating above the planet? Will any of the astronauts put their professional relationship first? You’ll just have to wait and find out what happens.
Because of the I.S.S. setting, the film has a rather minimal cast. Oscar winner Ariana DeBose, who portrays Dr. Kira Foster, gets first billing but this is a real ensemble film. Other American astronauts include Gordon Barrett (Chris Messina) and Christian Campbell (John Gallagher Jr.). Representing the Russians are cosmonauts Weronika Vetrov (Masha Mashkova), Nicholai Pulov (Costa Ronin), and Alexey Pulov (Pilou Asbaek). Nobody gets too showy in their performances. Even though it’s an independent film, there’s enough room in the budget to have actors look like they’re floating in space.
I could see a mid-major acquiring I.S.S. out of Tribeca or shortly thereafter. Again, it’s got the timeliness and relevance factor with a war playing out on the ground and impacting the space station. Whether or not a studio or streamer decides to spend the money on acquiring the film, we’ll have to wait and see, But for now, I definitely recommend watching I.S.S. especially if you need an adrenaline rush.
DIRECTOR: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
SCREENWRITER: Nick Shafir
CAST: Ariana DeBose, Chris Messina, John Gallagher Jr., Masha Mashkova, Costa Ronin, and Pilou Asbaek
I.S.S. holds its world premiere during the 2023 Tribeca Festival in the Spotlight Narrative program. Grade: 3.5/5
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