REVIEW: I.S.S. (2024)

I.S.S. is a movie I only became aware of very recently, thanks to movie theater trailers. I like Ariana DeBose, but I more than likely never would have seen this one were it not for my husband’s penchant for space movies. Speaking of DeBose, it’s weird for her to appear in this and Argylle so close together and play a character named Kira in both. She’s a great dancer and singer and has great stage presence, but I don’t think these roles serve her well or play to her strengths at all. I never would have pegged her as “female Steve Jobs” or “naïve but nerdy astronaut” if I were asked to cast her. I didn’t like West Side Story or Wish, but she was great in both of those movies. Anyway, the trailers for I.S.S. weren’t impressive, and generally, they had no effect on me. But since I saw the movie, let’s talk about it!

The International Space Station, or I.S.S., was created at the end of the Cold War so the United States and Russia could work together to advance science and space research. I.S.S. is the story of six astronauts, three American and three Russian, who must react to a war between their countries. The tension aboard the I.S.S. soon boils over into all-out chaos and conflict. Who will survive? Who will take control of the station? Is it worth fighting over, not knowing what remains on Earth to return to?

This movie is very contained and only stars six actors. I know DeBose and Pilou Asbæk the most. Asbæk played Euron Greyjoy in Game of Thrones and appeared in the live-action Ghost in the Shell and Samaritan, among other things. I generally like him because he’s very entertaining. I don’t think of him as a chameleon or an amazing character actor; he just brings an animal magnetism to his roles. The film also stars Chris Messina, John Gallagher Jr., Masha Mashkova, and Costa Ronin. The acting in I.S.S. is perfectly fine, neither remarkable nor subpar. Most of these roles don’t offer much in the way of substance for the actors to play with. The most interesting character is Lyosha (Asbæk), who appears one way early on but ends up being something entirely different. You know Kira (Debose) will mostly do the right thing, and the others play by certain rules or character motivations. But I genuinely didn’t know what Lyosha would do or how he would react to certain situations, which kept him interesting. Having a small cast like this can be an advantage, but you have to use that time to build up unique and dynamic personalities. They really only did so with Lyosha; everyone else is very predictable and uninteresting.

With that being said, I didn’t find the conflict in I.S.S. particularly interesting. As such, I don’t think it will hold up to multiple viewings. The movie is a slow build, which works to its advantage in maintaining believability and developing the characters. But I find no-win scenarios boring; I understand that some people find it interesting to see how characters will react to these bad situations, but it’s not for me. I don’t like disaster movies for the same reason: the characters are reactive by nature, not proactive. It’s dull! Kira is just an innocent, good-natured angel who has to find the right thing to do in the face of war and betrayal. Boring. Judging by the trailers, I expected to be bored to tears by I.S.S., and I suppose it’s to the film’s credit that I never fell asleep. Sometimes, a small setting can help create a compelling story by building tension and atmosphere. A good example of this would be the movie Moon. I.S.S. does alright where this is concerned, but I don’t think there’s enough intrigue. It’s just a waiting game to see who will get out alive, if anyone.


I.S.S. is technically well-made, but I didn’t find the visuals, direction, or music particularly noteworthy. The original score by Anne Nikitin adds to the building pressure among the crew, but it was neither memorable nor very beautiful. Shots of the stars are lovely, but besides that, there’s only so much they can show us. Everyone is in a little space inside a space station. Some directorial choices left me confused, such as when Lyosha screams after a conversation with his friend. It’s not that his screaming came from nowhere; I understand why he would let out some expression of emotion. But the way he does it and the way the camera frames it feel fake or comedic. It doesn’t suit the situation or how he feels at all.

I.S.S. isn’t as bad as Argylle, but I’m not going to recommend it, either. It’s serviceable in almost every way but rarely rises above average. I didn’t find fault in the performances, but they aren’t special or especially compelling. Pilou Asbæk has the hardest task where that’s concerned, and he rises to the occasion, but nothing more. I don’t know what the driving force for making this movie could have been. It doesn’t look particularly commercial, but there’s no passion there, either. Who wanted to tell this story? Why? The characters are static and uninteresting, with one exception, and the story mostly goes how you would expect. That would be fine if it were emotional, funny, or insightful in some way. It is not. This is a rotten year for movies so far, and I can only hope the next few months offer something better.


Plot - 6
Acting - 6
Directing/Editing - 5
Music/Sound - 7
Drama/Intrigue - 5



I.S.S. is pretty to look at on occasion but never thrills or engages.

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