Original title:Spaceman
Director:Johan Renck
Running time:107 minutes
Release date:23 february 2024
After six months on a research mission to the farthest reaches of the solar system, completely cut off from the world, astronaut Jakub discovers that the woman he left behind may not be waiting for him when he returns to Earth. As he seeks clarification with his wife Lenka, a mysterious ancestral creature nestled in the bowels of his ship comes to his aid. Hanuš works with Jakub to understand what has happened before it's too late.

Mulder's Review

Adam Sandler's foray into the depths of space in Johan Renck's Spaceman represents a departure from the comic roles that have defined much of his career, inviting viewers into a contemplative odyssey that interweaves the vastness of the cosmos with the intimate subtleties of human emotion. Spaceman, based on Jaroslav Kalfar's novel Spaceman of Bohemia, navigates themes of isolation, existential dread and the yearning for connection, anchored by Adam Sandler's compelling portrayal of Jakub Procházka, a Czech astronaut on a solitary mission that becomes as much introspection as interstellar exploration.

Johan Renck, known for his critically acclaimed work on Chernobyl, has crafted a story that oscillates between the cold, indifferent expanse of space and the warmth of human bonds, with a keen sense of emotional resonance and visual storytelling. Jakub, played by Adam Sandler, is a man torn between his professional ambitions and the personal sacrifices they require, embodying the quintessential existential hero launched into the unknown. His journey, both literal and metaphorical, is punctuated by moments of profound solitude, during which the immensity of space reflects his own inner emptiness.

The film's psychological depth is further enriched by the inclusion of Hanus, a primordial spider-like creature played by Paul Dano, whose presence aboard Jakub's spaceship introduces a surreal, almost hallucinogenic dimension to the narrative. This unlikely companionship between man and extraterrestrial being serves as a vehicle for exploring the film's central themes, with Johan Hanus acting as both confidant and catalyst for Jakub's self-examination. Their interactions, which range from initial mistrust to a deep, if unconventional, bond, provide a poignant commentary on the human need for connection and understanding.

Spaceman excels in its visual representation of the contrast between the infinite and the individual. Cinematographer Jakob Ihre's work captures the isolation of space travel, juxtaposing the narrow, utilitarian confines of Jakub's spaceship with the limitless beauty of the universe. This visual dichotomy not only underscores the protagonist's physical and emotional isolation, but also elevates the film's aesthetic, balancing the austerity of space with moments of sublime beauty.

However, the film's ambitious thematic scope and deliberate pacing may not resonate with all viewers. Some will find the meditative quality of the narrative and the existential reflections verging on the heavy-handed, while others will question Sandler's choice of a role that distances him from his comic roots. Yet it is precisely these elements that give Spaceman its distinctive character and compel the audience to engage with its deepest philosophical interrogations.

Adam Sandler's performance is undoubtedly the film's keystone, demonstrating his capacity for dramatic depth and vulnerability. Stripped of the comic facade that has defined much of his work, Sandler delivers a nuanced portrait of a man grappling with the weight of his choices and the lure of the unknown. His chemistry with Paul Dano's Hanus adds layers of complexity to the film, blending elements of humor, melancholy and introspection.

Supporting actors, notably Carey Mulligan as Jakub's estranged wife Lenka and Isabella Rossellini as Commissioner Tuma, contribute to the film's emotional texture, although their roles are somewhat limited by the narrative's focus on Jakub's lonely journey. Carey Mulligan, in particular, brings a poignant vulnerability to Lenka, whose relationship with Jakub serves as a poignant reminder of the personal sacrifices inherent in the pursuit of lofty ambitions.

Spaceman is a film that dares to explore the immensity of the human experience against the backdrop of the cosmos, weaving a narrative that is as much about the inner landscapes of its characters as it is about the far reaches of space. It is a testament to the power of cinema to plumb the depths of the human condition, offering a meditative and visually stunning reflection on loneliness, love and the eternal quest for meaning. In this context, Sandler's transformation from comic actor to vessel of existential exploration is not only commendable, it's essential to the film's impact, cementing Spaceman as a notable addition to the sci-fi cinema canon and a major milestone in Sandler's career.

Directed by Johan Renck
Written by Colby Day
Based on Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař
Produced by Michael Parets, Channing Tatum, Reid Carolin, Peter Kiernan, Timothy Headington, Lia Buman, Max Silva
Starring Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, Kunal Nayyar, Lena Olin, Isabella Rossellini, Paul Dano
Cinematography : Jakob Ihre
Edited by Scott Cummings, Simon Smith, John Axelrad
Music by Max Richter
Production companies : Tango Entertainment, Free Association, Sinestra
Distributed by Netflix
Release dates : February 20, 2024 (Berlinale), February 23, 2024 (United States), March 1, 2024 (France)
Running time : 107 minutes

Viewed on March 1, 2024 (Neflix)

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