"I.S.S." milks tension out of human conflict in space

I.S.S. (2024)

There have certainly been exceptions, but in the movies, bad things always happen in space. Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (whose harrowing 2013 SeaWorld documentary "Blackfish" made way for narrative films) moves more into genre with "I.S.S.," a well-made space thriller that milks more than enough tension out of a mission without extraterrestrial beings. Human decisions are scary enough.

Ariana DeBose leads the film as American astronaut Dr. Kira Foster, who along with colleague Christian Campbell (John Gallagher Jr.), boards the International Space Station. Symbolic of the United States and Russian collaboration after the Cold War, the I.S.S. is used as a research facility where the crew makes advancements in medicine, tech and space exploration. They’re welcomed by American commander Gordon Barrett (Chris Messina) and their shipmates, Russian cosmonauts Weronika Petrov (Masha Mashkova), Nicholai Pulov (Costa Ronin), and Alexey Pulov (Pilou Asbæk). When a worldwide disaster happens on Earth, both groups receive separate orders to abort their missions and take control of the station by any means necessary. No matter whose side you’re on, we have a problem. 

Pared down to the essentials, "I.S.S." is a good-looking B-movie with a few A-list actors and polished production values. Now, we don’t get a backstory for all six characters or learn their hobbies and social security numbers. But where it counts, Nick Shafir’s script efficiently establishes these people through their actions and dynamics before the high-pressure scenario gets underway. It also doesn’t hurt that the actors are all strong and bring emotional weight; the charismatic DeBose may not get to carry a tune here, but she remains compelling when dialing it back as Kira. Read the full review at GuyAtTheMovies.com

Grade: B

Bleecker Street released "I.S.S." (95 min.) in theaters on January 19, 2024.