For once, the aliens have crash landed somewhere other than America. Any blockbuster from Russia is a rarity and an alien invasion film is a world away from the art house diet we've been drip fed over the years. Attraction may prove to be something of a test case for similar IMAX based films from Russia in the future, but while the story and the visuals are something we've become used to in this part of the world, the subtitles may limit its success. Director Fedor Bondarchuk’s follow-up to Stalingrad serves up an underwhelming two hours of sci-fi nonsense, hitting the same beats we've seen time and again.
In the midst of an eagerly anticipated meteor shower over Moscow (incorporating the real-life event in 2013) the Russian military shoot down a huge UFO which crash lands in the heart of the city. High-rise buildings and motorways are destroyed and hundreds of civilians killed by flying debris as the huge spherical spaceship finally grinds to a halt. The surrounding area is cleared and the army are called in to deal with the situation. A blockbuster isn’t complete without a good set of CGI effects and while hardly revolutionary they are functional enough and serve their purpose without ruining the big moment. This quickly becomes something of a sub-plot against the evolving love story between colonel Lebedev’s daughter, Yulya (Irina Starshenbaum) and alien-turned-human, Hijken (Rinal Mukhametov).
As tends to be the case with many Western reviews of foreign language films there will be, no doubt, many who attempt to align the film with the strained political relationships between both sides of the world. If any allegory exists at all it is one about immigration and cultures finding common ground. Like the recently released Jupiter's Moon, which centred around a young refugee who could miraculously fly, Attraction focusses on the fear driven hatred shown towards the aliens/immigrants and the further division and harm it creates. Not a bad idea by all accounts but a theme that is dragged along by a poorly conceived plot, painful dialogue and a complete absence of tension.
There is a lot going on within the story but hardly any of it grabs your attention long enough to be remembered. Much of this is down Bondarchuk’s full throttle approach that takes no time to linger on events as they happen, robbing the moments and the characters of any meaning. It wants to make you laugh, shudder at the science fiction, swoon at the romance, and gasp at the set-pieces. There are few people that can blend together so many tones without seeing the stitching involved in patching them together, and Bondarchuk is not one of them. If this is a sign of the Russian blockbusters to come, it looks set to be a splash rather than a tidal wave of talent heading our way.