Salyut-7 is successful in taking creative license to re-enact one of the biggest events to occur in the world of outer space, and while Russians watching the film may know how it ends, not knowing the outcome will increase the tension of the experience.
It is 1985 and the currently unmanned titular space station suddenly loses connection to base entirely. It is in a low orbit; there is not a lot of time to waste before it begins drifting towards the Earth’s surface. The top of the military hierarchy want to move quicker still as they know that the US plan to launch a craft soon, and they will not allow them access to their technology at any cost. They will shoot their own space station down if need be, scorching the stars.
It doesn’t take long for one aspect to become immediately apparent: many hours behind the scenes have been spent to render a splendid looking picture, making Gravity or even less-’prestigious’, more recent space-bound films pale in comparison. Not only is this CGI work some of the best to be seen outside the highest of budgets, it goes hand in hand with incredible, whirling camerawork that almost approaches an area of ‘how did they do that’? In fact it boggles the mind how these filmmakers were able to create such an incredible looking picture with the budget they had. The effects rival Interstellar.
The opening moments include some very tense scenes, but as the film moves forward it becomes more an exercise of going through the motions. Each actor is flat both in their character and in the way they act- though this is typical of Russian and many Eastern European peoples. They don’t show a lot of emotion. This however is a film, and there are simply no reasons to care about any of the characters, despite the impossible task of docking with an out of control space station where every axis is spinning.
The events have certainly been dramatised when it comes to what happens inside the ship, but again the visuals are wonderful and despite some questionable acting, an incredibly interesting situation unfolds. There are some overly sentimental moments and some generic orchestral music, but the film is an adequate adaptation of one of the most incredible situations to have been carried out in outer space, one that many may not know of.
Perhaps further understanding of what it was like during the mid 80’s in the USSR could help in understanding the more nuanced and detailed political repercussions of what unfolds, but a basic education in the history of the Cold War and the ‘Space Race’ (along with the Arms Race, and the ‘Peace Race’ if we take our cue from Kubrick) is more than enough. It again should be noted that this is based in 1985, the beginning of the end. The space-station was crumbling much like the USSR itself.
Two short of a sixer; this really could have been something special.