In the case of small house settings in movie, growing an engrossing story takes a bit extra effort. Different Tribeca choices, like You’ll By no means Discover Me, do that remarkably nicely. I.S.S. is actually dedicated to its premise and excels at constructing rigidity; it’s an instance of the methods during which suspense and battle may be developed within the story and between characters. And whereas the plot is suspenseful and unsettling as a result of it’s one thing that would occur, the movie underwhelms with regards to its dynamics and particular person arcs, every character missing a depth that will have elevated an in any other case strong thriller.
A workforce of astronauts, a mix of Russian and American, collect on the Worldwide House Station (I.S.S.), and so they’re joined by newcomers — Dr. Kira Foster (Ariana DeBose) and Christian Campbell (John Gallagher Jr.). Issues are going swimmingly at first, and everybody appears to be getting alongside nice, although the rating means that the concord received’t final for lengthy. And it doesn’t. A day after the ultimate astronauts’ arrival, conflict breaks out between Russia and the U.S. and the astronauts obtain cryptic messages from their respective governments: They’re to safe the house station by any means needed, turning the buddies into enemies, with a couple of surprises as to the lengths a few of them may go for his or her nations and for themselves above all.
The movie lays the groundwork pretty nicely earlier than issues go awry. There may have been extra performed to determine the relationships earlier than attending to the crux of the plot, however Nick Shafir’s script wastes no time in establishing the stress. To that finish, the depth ramps as much as 100, and it by no means lets up, with every motion resulting in strenuous and aggravating circumstances that can depart you feeling on edge relating to what comes subsequent. Ought to Kira belief Weronika Vetrov (Masha Mashkova), the Russian scientist in love with American scientist Gordon (Chris Messina), when she asks for her assist in opposition to Nicholai (Costa Ronin) and Alexy (Pilou Asbæk)? Does Christian have good intentions or is he solely out for himself? I.S.S. retains us guessing all through and makes each scene electrifying and riveting because of this.
Whereas the movie excels in driving the conflicts between the characters, they’re missing in growth as people. The narrative tries to boost the stakes by making Gordon and Weronika a pair, including to the battle of 1 facet in opposition to the opposite, however the movie doesn’t take sufficient time to determine who these characters are as individuals earlier than they’re within the struggle of their lives. The extra growth they’d, the deeper and extra biting the stress may’ve been. However the movie stays on the floor relating to these characters and their dynamics, content material to remain on the shallow finish as a substitute of digging a bit deeper to flesh issues out.
That mentioned, I.S.S. stays participating as a sci-fi thriller. And there’s a lot to love concerning the rising depth and battle, the terrifying premise, and the best way during which director Gabriela Cowperthwaite builds suspense. The actors rise to the event and do their finest with what they’re given, permitting us to imagine that they’d flip to violence in opposition to one another, even when the one of many early drivers of their disputes is much less plausible.
I.S.S. screened on the 2023 Tribeca Movie Competition. It’s 95 minutes lengthy and never but rated.