Sputnik ★★★½

Really good stuff here. With elements of science fiction, horror and psychological drama, Sputnik has real depth in writing as seen in both the story line, surprise twists, and characters from start all the way to the impressive finish.
Sure, a lot is familiar here, from space travelers bringing a deadly super e.t. back with them and the military wanting to control and ultimately weaponize the creature, to lead figures having secrets that will reveal key aspects of their personality or behavior. But you can use familiar tropes and scenarios all you want if you use them in fresh, skillful ways.
Writers Malovichko and Zoloratev do so well, and director Abramenko shows a real strength in this type of genre filmmaking. Great work for his first full-length film. Tone is maintained extremely well throughout, as is appropriate pacing and editing. Just a bit over 100 minutes goes by with no sense of excess scenes or other fodder.
The cast is strong in general, with standout work by Oksana Akinshina and Pyotr Fyodorov. Bondarchuk and Vasil'ev are great as a self-serving military commander and the weak, manipulated head scientist, respectfully. Well done. 3.7 stars