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Spaceman ★★★



Released: 1st March 2024

Director: Johan Renck

Starring: Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, Paul Dano, Isabella Rosellini

Adam Sandler’s career is fascinating, almost like one of two separate actors. Best known as the star of goofy comedies like Happy Gilmore or Grown Ups. Sandler has alongside this forged a career as a fantastic leading man in dramas like Punch Drunk Love, Uncut Gems and 2022’s Hustle. The last two of these saw him collaborating with Netflix which is where we find his latest dramatic endeavour, Spaceman from director Johan Renck (Chernobyl). Spaceman adapts Jaroslav Kalfař’s 2017 novel Spaceman of Bohemia.

Spaceman sees Astronaut Jakub Procházka, 6 months into a solo mission to deep space investigating the Chopra cloud, a mysterious cloud of dust at the edge of the solar system. He is struggling with loneliness and motivation, desperately missing his pregnant wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan). It is at this stage of his mission that he encounters an alien lifeform in the shape of Hanuš voiced by Paul Dano. He is a lifeform from the birth of the universe, one of the last of his species, fascinated by Jakub and his loneliness, seeking to help him overcome it. To add to the weirdness Hanuš resembles a giant spider.

In other hands this might drag, especially with so much of the focus simply between Jakub and his alien friend. Sandler gives a compelling, subtle performance that captures layers of regret and grief, all the more impressive given he shares next to no scenes with other humans bar flashbacks to his relationship with Lenka. Mulligan shows her frustration with her husband’s role and seeming abandonment of any commitment but is kept to the fringes with this being very much the Sandler show.

It is a cerebral piece of sci-fi cinema, and while it might not come close to the likes of Arrival or Close Encounters of The Third Kind, has merits of its own. Sandler’s performance is the glue that keeps it together while Dano’s voice is a perfect foil. Renck who cut his teeth on TV shows like The Walking Dead, Breaking Bad and most memorably Chernobyl, shows he has a natural aptitude for feature films and it will be intriguing to follow what he does next.

If not perfect, there is much to appreciate in Spaceman from the intriguing double act of Jakub and his giant spider companion to its visuals and sense of scale. It is better than its initial reputation might lead on and again solidifies Sandler’s reputation as a top-notch leading man for dramatic roles, something he is successfully leaning more into in recent years to fine effect.

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