I.S.S. (Blu-ray)

Tensions flare in the near future aboard the International Space Station as a conflict breaks out on Earth. Reeling, the U.S. and Russian astronauts receive orders from the ground: take control of the station by any means necessary.

March 22, 2024 6 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

No matter the current state of affairs, I’m willing to bet that there’ll always be friction between the United States and Russia. Granted, this isn’t the Cold War days anymore (or is it?), but when it comes to superpowers of the world – these two have been at it for decades. Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film, I.S.S., takes a look at these tensions and escalates it a bit. More on that later. Speaking as a child of the 80’s and someone who great up in that era, there was always a looming “could it happen” mentality when it came to nuclear war. That might still be the case – who knows? My younger brother used to have panic attacks at the mere prospect of nuclear war. And, truthfully, it it were to happen could we really do anything about it? At any rate, that was in the past and we’re looking ahead to the future – the near future, actually. Take the movie Crimson Tide in which the Captain of a nuclear sub and the XO have a difference of opinions when it comes to what to do in a situation just like this. Yes, I.S.S. might have shades of the 1995 classic, but manages to pave its own path.

We meet the cast of characters, all six actually, who are aboard the International Space Station in, you guessed it – space. The Americans Kira Foster (Ariana DeBose), Gordon Barrett (Chris Messina), and Christian Campbell (John Gallagher, Jr.) work in concert with Russians Weronika Vetrov (Masha Mashkova), Nicholai Pulov (Costa Ronin), and Alexey Pulov (Pilou Asbæk). All is well or at least all seems well until they witness what appears to be a missile attack taking place on the surface below. They don’t know what, if anything, has happened but are given instructions by their respective countries: take control of the International Space Station. Simple as that. This leads to obvious discord and begs the question of loyalty: are they loyal to one another or their homeland? It turns out that’s the real drama of the film as they’ve been living far from home and can’t grasp what’s happening below. And therein lies the rub.

At the heart of the film is a character study and it’s a rather interesting premise as to how things play out. None of us know what might/would happen if we were in that situation. Do we prioritize our own safety and security or show loyalty to our country which might save (or cost) millions of lives? It’s not an easy concept to swallow. I.S.S. works on a few levels and manages to elevate the tension in ways I’d have not thought possible. It’s proof that you don’t need to go globetrotting with car chases, action sequences and the like to make an entertaining film. This one takes place in a very confined area which, to me, seemed to elevate the tension even more. While not perfect, it does ask the viewer to choose a side. Which side are you on?

Video: How’s it look?

There are some truly breathtaking shots in the film, though the majority of it takes place in the interior of the space station. I was reminded of Gravity in which we see some of the same shots. It’s a lovely picture. There’s even a sequence in which we see some pretty top-notch CGI as they venture outside the space station. The 2.39:1 AVC HD encode is wide enough to give us the impression that there’s a lot more space (pardon the pun) out there than there really is. I’d almost like to have seen this in a narrower aspect ratio as it might make the sense of claustrophobia that much more intense. Nevertheless, it’s a good-looking transfer that’s got a few blips along the way, but by and large viewers should be please.

Audio: How’s it sound?

There aren’t a lot of opportunities for the included DTS HD Master Audio mix to flex its muscle. Having said that, vocals are the main draw here with dialects and accents a plenty. While some surrounds sounds exist, I found that the front stage does a fine job of handling the majority of the audio. LFE do get involved for some background “bass” (for lack of a better word). It’s a good, though not great, track that more than serves its purpose.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This disc contains no bonus materials.

The Bottom Line

I found I.S.S. has a lot more to it than met the eye. It’s something I’d have likely looked over in my “to be reviewed” pile, but I’m glad I took the chance. I can only hope that the message conveyed within ins’t an eerie precursor to our own future. The Blu-ray looks and sounds good, though the lack of special features might be a turnoff to those that like those.

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