The Reel Review


American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts orbiting Earth on the International Space Station find themselves at odds when war breaks out between the two countries and each government secretly orders their nation’s crewmembers to seize control of the I.S.S. by any means necessary. Oscar winner Ariana DeBose (West Side Story) stars in this sci-fi/thriller.

Ariana DeBose in I.S.S.

Director Gabriela Cowperthwaite (Our Friend, Blackfish) impressively builds and maintains suspense in this character-driven, claustrophobic sci-fi thriller. As a catastrophic world war erupts on Earth, friendship, camaraderie and teamwork on the I.S.S. is replaced by mistrust and conflict. Subtle comments, sideways glances, and language barriers telegraph the growing paranoia and deception, as each crewmember wonders – who here can I trust?

From I.S.S.

DeBose does an excellent job carrying the film, with a strong supporting cast that includes Chris Messina (Air, Sharp Objects, Argo) and John Gallagher Jr. (10 Cloverfield Lane, Hush) as her fellow American astronauts, and Costa Ronin (The Americans, Homeland), Pilou Asbæk (Overlord, Ghost in the Shell) and Masha Mashkova (Mafia: Game of Survival) as the Russian cosmonauts. Mashkova in particular has some of the best moments in the film. The fight scenes are brutal, although a bit too on the nose in their symbolism – you’ll know it when you see it – and the whole reason for wanting to return to Earth is a bit of a stretch. But at a quick hour and a half, the film zips along like, well, an out-of-control space station.


• Controversy erupted at the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards earlier this week when Bella Ramsey (The Last of Us) read a poorly-written joke from the teleprompter accusing Ariana DeBose of not being a good singer. Afterwards, DeBose, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar in 2022 for West Side Story and has performed for years on Broadway, said she bore no ill-will towards Ramsey. The two hugged it out a couple of nights later at the Emmy Awards.

I.S.S. screenwriter Nick Shafir and director Gabriela Cowperthwaite

• In December 2020, writer Nick Shafir’s first-ever screenplay I.S.S. was included on the year’s “Black List” of most-liked, unproduced screenplays. A month later, it was greenlit for production, which took place at Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina, with the cast tethered in harnesses to simulate zero gravity.

Pilou Asbaek in Game of Thrones

• Pilou Asbæk appeared as Euron Greyjoy in nine episodes of Game of Thrones.


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