Under the Soviet government, Russian science fiction tended to be deeply cerebral. Films like Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Stalker for example. Or preachy pieces of propaganda that rarely made it past the Iron Curtain. Now however we’re seeing more films like Attraction with its Earth girl meets alien story turning up in DVD bins. The most recent import is The Blackout: Invasion Earth, (Avanpost, or Outpost in its homeland). A two-hour epic pitting the Red Army, or what’s left of it, against alien invaders. Is this the Russian answer to Independence Day?
An unexplained event has plunged the world into darkness. The western edge of Russia and a few surrounding countries have survived, but contact with the rest of the world has been lost. Scouting missions just over the border of the Quarantine Zone report everyone dead and attacked by strange humanoid figures. Missions deeper into it don’t return at all.
After an attack on a military outpost on the edge of the Circle of Life as it is called, (by rampaging bears no less). The government sends a team into the Quarantine Zone. Among them are Oleg (Aleksey Chadov, Night Watch, Day Watch) and Alyona (Lukerya Ilyashenko, Dance To Death) the unit’s doctor. The two had coincidentally hooked up while on leave just before the world went to hell. There’s also Sasha (Artyom Markaryan) who has somehow gained a connection to the alien’s minds.
While in the zone an alien Eid (Artyom Tkachenko, Indigo) reveals himself to the humans. He also tells them that his kind has been on Earth for millennia, paving the way for an invasion. One that will occur in the next 24 hours.
Filmed on a budget of about $5,000,000 The Blackout: Invasion Earth certainly looks good. The scenes involving the military were obviously shot with mostly real tanks and other equipment. The CGI for the rest is quite good. As are some of the scenes of destruction we see in the Quarantine Zone. There are also several large-scale scenes of riots in the world’s remaining cities.
The original cut of The Blackout: Invasion Earth is listed as running just over two and a half hours. The International copy I saw however was just over two hours long. Losing half an hour might explain why there were moments when it seemed I’d missed a plot point or two. There are also two credited directors, Egor Baranov (Gogol. The Beginning) and Nathalia Hencker who is credited with the English version. Translation and dubbing probably didn’t help matters either.
That said, you can follow the film and everything does get explained. Which is good because The Blackout: Invasion Earth does have some interesting concepts to help set it apart from other alien invasion films. Concepts that I’m not going to spoil.
But it’s the action scenes that are the main attraction. And they are numerous and well-staged, give or take some CGI blood. It’s not quite Independence Day, it’s more like Stargate crossed with Resident Evil. With a touch of The Matrix and The Raid thrown in for good measure.