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  • Writer's pictureStephen Yanni

I.S.S. (2024) - Trust is a Vacuum

Rating: ★★★☆☆ (3/5 Stars)

Released 01-19-2024

Watched 05-04-2024

Reviewed 05-08-2024

Rented on iTunes



"If the low-pitched faint hum ever stops it means the life support is off, so keep an ear out"


Gabriela Cowperthwaite's "I.S.S." ambitiously launches into the orbit of sci-fi thrillers with a narrative that could have soared among the stars but unfortunately only manages a low Earth orbit. Set against the vast emptiness of space aboard the International Space Station, the film strings together an intense tale of distrust, conspiracy, and survival as a multi-national crew faces a nuclear crisis on Earth.


The film’s premise is as compelling as it is timely, reflecting the fraught tensions of international politics. Dr. Kira Foster (Ariana DeBose) and her crew are depicted in vivid detail, each grappling with the terrifying realization of being stranded above an Earth tearing itself apart by nuclear warfare. DeBose delivers a stoic performance, embodying both the determination and vulnerability of her character. However, the script does not fully leverage her talents, leaving some emotional scenes feeling flat.


Chris Messina and John Gallagher Jr. play American astronauts who reveal layers of complexity as the crisis unfolds, but again, the potential depth of these characters is undercut by occasionally stilted dialogue and a pacing that languishes in the film's middle segment. The Russian crew members, portrayed by Masha Mashkova, Costa Ronin, and Pilou Asbæk, add a necessary tension and ambiguity, though the film struggles to maintain a consistent tone, vacillating between thriller and melodrama.


The cinematography effectively captures the isolation and claustrophobia of the space station, with sweeping views of Earth adding a poignant backdrop to the unfolding drama. These visuals, paired with a suspenseful score, are among the film’s highlights, managing to convey the vast stakes and the personal claustrophobia.


Where "I.S.S." falters most notably is in its resolution. The climax, intended to be a crescendo of suspense and revelation, feels anticlimactic and somewhat muddled. The narrative threads do not converge with the impact expected, leaving the viewer somewhat adrift. This, coupled with a slow middle act, prevents the film from fully engaging its audience.


Overall, "I.S.S." is a film with stellar ambitions that does not quite reach the heights it aims for. It offers a gripping setup and some solid performances but is ultimately let down by uneven pacing and a script that fails to ignite the thrilling potential of its premise.

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