No one can hear you scream in space, usually, unless you’re all in a space station. This is the basic premise of the new sci-fi film I.S.S., a strangely slow thriller sort of thing with tinges of claustrophobia, a snail’s pace and, interestingly, more than a passing resemblance to the Ren & Stimpy episode “Space Madness.” OK, I jest in that last bit (sort of), but either way—drag.
I.S.S. takes place on the International Space Station, where small teams of Russian and American scientists do…science (we never actually see them do science so much as the film tells us that’s their deal). New to the station are Dr. Kira Foster (2021 West Side Story alum Ariana DeBose) and Air Force vet Christian Campbell (Spring Awakening originator John Gallagher Jr.), who have arrived to join a commanding officer (Chris Messina of The Mindy Project) and a trio of Russians played by folks you might know if you’ve seen Overlord or The Americans (probably not a whole lot of you). Not long into the new kids’ stay, however, and the people of Earth go and get themselves into a nuclear war. Both the Americans and Russians receive directives from their governments: Take over the International Space Station by any means necessary.
I.S.S. stops being interesting there and instead devolves into some pretty tired notions of cabin fever, panic and deplorable actions under extreme duress. DeBose can’t quite carry the film herself, nor are Gallagher Jr. or Messina well-known enough to lend gravitas. Russian actor Costa Ronin of The Americans gets in some good creepy moments that seem to criticize or at least briefly analyze the concept of duty-versus-humanity, but the overall message is more about how fragile alliances might be when mistrust enters the picture.
Kudos to director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (whose other directing credit is a movie I’ve never heard about called Our Friend) for getting some very cool shots in simulated zero-G—seriously, some look almost like Renaissance-era paintings. Otherwise, I.S.S. is doomed to sit on the ash heap of forgotten movies, mark my words.
+Some cool shots; fun premise
-Just pretty boring and lacking meaningful…anything
Directed by Cowperthwaite
With DeBose, Gallagher Jr., Messina and Ronin
Violet Crown, Regal, R, 95 min.