Russian movies rarely reach mainstream audiences in the U.S ., but 2017 could be a breakthrough year. The Russian superhero movie Guardians is slated for release in September, and if there’s any justice , Attraction will follow.
Attraction is the Russian answer to Independence Day or Attack the Block , an alien intrusion story with a positive social message and plenty of crowd-pleasing action sequences. It shares similar topics with Arrival the struggle to avoid militaristic paranoia when encounteringaliensbut with a much more blockbuster-y tone.
Irina Starshenbaum stars as the angry teen heroine, Yulia, whose neighborhood isdestroyed when a spaceship crashes in the middle of Moscow. The government speedily enforces martial law, tapping into Yulia’s conflicted relationship with her dad, the colonel in charge ofevacuating the nearby apartment blocks. He wants the military to be cautious, while Yulia and her boyfriend Artyom( Alexander Petrov) insure the alien ship as an invading force-out, and plan to sneak into the evacuation zone themselves.
Yulia finds and captures an alien who ventures outside the vessel, at which point the tale takes a different turn. As Yulia gets to know the alien, she realizes he isn’t dangerousafter all, and is basically helplessuntil his spaceship repairs itself. Meanwhile, Artyom and his friends become increasingly angry about the government’s unwillingness to attack the vessel, eventually sparking a riot.
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It’s a well-executed butfamiliar various kinds of blockbuster, complete with a dubstep soundtrack during the bigger action scenes. There are a couple of stand-out elements, though. The first is Yulia’s relationship with Artyom, which is a lot more complex than you’d expect from a Roland Emmerich-style disaster movieespecially since these cinemas rarely have female leads.
Artyom is in his 20 s, a sexy but disreputable guy who hangs out in a local garage with his friends, all of whom are fueled by pent-up macho aggression.He’s a exhaustively plausible love interest for arebellious teen girl, but he’s also clearly bad news. He doesn’t respect Yulia as an equal, and when the going gets tough, he’s more interested in starting battles than procuring peaceful resolution to the rising tensions in their neighborhood. That’s where the second surprising detail comes in : Attraction includes straightforward depictions of police brutality.
The film was supposedly inspired by the 2013 Moscow riots, which happened in response tothe murder of a young Russian man. Locals blamed his death on a Muslim migrant, spurring racist backlash across the city.This scenario has played out in several European countries in the past few years, and Artyom is the archetypal avatar of that backlash: a working-class white man with a sense of fierce pride in the Motherland, conveying violent fury toward outsiders. Yet the government forces are equally to blame for the chaos. During the riot scenes, the police beat civilians and chase them down on horseback, a noticeable culture change to Hollywood expectations. You see plenty of corrupted cops and incompetent detectives in crime dramas, but it’s hard to imagine this kind of police barbarism in a mainstream American popcornmovie.
Attraction isn’t groundbreaking in the context of cinemas like Independence Day or Godzilla , but that’s kind of the phase. If it gets U.S. distribution before the DVD comes outwhich it probably will, since it’salready screeningeverywhere elsethen it willremind U.S. audiences that foreign-language cinema is just as accessible as Hollywood.
Editor’s Note : This review was filed from the Edinburgh Film Festival, where Attraction premieres this week .