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  Blackout, The Old Gods, New Trouble
Year: 2019
Director: Egor Baranov
Stars: Aleksey Chadov, Pyotr Fyodorov, Svetlana Ivanova, Lukerya Ilyashenko, Kseniya Kutepova, Konstantin Lavronenko, Filipp Avdeev, Artyom Tkachenko, Yuriy Borisov, Maksim Emelyanov, Yvan Fominov, Sergey Godin, Elena Koreneva, Vladimir Steklov
Genre: Action, Science FictionBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: The near future. A month ago, something terrible happened to the world, disaster on an unimaginable scale. One day, life was continuing as normal when suddenly there was a mass blackout of electricity that took in the citizens of the planet simply collapsing and dying - apart from one area of Russia, which equally mysteriously escaped the catastrophe, leaving the authorities there to try to work out what had happened. So far they have come up blank, there is no rhyme or reason they can see and with all communication with anyone outside their zone shut down utterly there is no way of knowing what is out there.

However, something may be in contact soon... something big... and powerful... and evil. Well, it's evil from our perspective because we are to be its victims if it has its way, not that ninety-five percent of the globe's population haven't already succumbed when we catch up with the story in Russian director Egor Baranov's impressive-looking science fiction epic. He was best known for the Gogol series of movies in his homeland, but here he made inroads into international visibility as The Blackout was picked up in quite a few territories, largely on home entertainment and dubbed, though it arrived in a number of foreign cinemas too, not bad going considering how many of those were being shut as the months after its initial release went by.

The subtitled version was preferable, it had to be said, though at least a dub was available for those averse to them. It also had to be said, despite working on a budget that was a fraction of what Hollywood (or Bollywood) would have spent, Baranov managed small wonders in creating a glossy, expansive appearance to what could have been your basic Aliens rip-off, and a lot of that was down to using the old Stargate cliché of ancient aliens in a truly interesting manner. A simple enough plot when it was examined, but the idea that God was coming back, and he was pissed off, and not only that but he was a race of space creatures with incredible powers who had instigated life on Earth and could just as easily snap it out of existence was a neat one to attempt on limited resources.

Yet Baranov gave it a very admirable go, and if the details were mired in stuff you would be familiar with in other variations, it was the method in his style that lifted this above your average space invaders yarn. His cast were led by a bunch of thirtysomething stars, whom had some successes under their belts, where Aleksey Chadov was Oleg, our heroic soldier who held the key to potential victory, Pyotr Fyodorov was another soldier, Yuriy, who we can tell could be trouble when he admits privately that he really doesn't care about the 95% who died because he didn't know them, and they are all dead anyway (predicting the attitude of a certain type of Covid-19 denier, entirely coincidentally given this technically showed up the year before that disaster occurred).

While the female stars were Svetlana Ivanova as Olga, the journalist recording all the mayhem potentially for a non-existent audience once it's all over, and Lukerya Ilyashenko was a military doctor with a line in sauciness to spice up Oleg's military life. Baranov said this was essentially an anti-war movie, but it was not necessarily an anti-soldier one, as he was sympathetic to those putting their lives on the line, meanwhile he concocted some idiosyncratic imagery (a mass bear attack, cities in ruins, the inside of the aliens' ship) that helped the fact that while there was good stuff here, it was clear the director was a shade too in love with it. In no world did this deserve to be over two hours long, there was a snappy ninety-minute B-movie struggling to get out, but that aside, worthwhile for sci-fi addicts, with a provocative take on religion that felt very Russian. Though how you responded may depend on how much you appreciated apparent inspiration, Ridley Scott's Prometheus. Music by Ryan Otter.

Aka: Avanpost

Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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