Spaceman (dir. Johan Renck)

By: Adam Freed

Floating in complete isolation in the outer reaches of space tends to give one plenty of time for personal reflection.  This is certainly the case for Adam Sandler’s Jakub, a Czechoslovakian Cosmonaut tasked with exploring the outskirts of Jupiter in Johan Renck’s muddled Netflix original Spaceman.  The problem with Renck's film isn’t that it is without merit so much as it simply doesn’t afford audiences the respect of allowing them to do any thinking for themselves.  The Swedish music video director seems so preoccupied with driving home the film’s worthy messaging that he delivers it, as if by spoon, one obvious line of dialogue at a time.  The shame is that in doing so, Renck renders a pair of impactful performances and a devastatingly poignant theme nearly obsolete.     

Sandler (Uncut Gems, Punch Drunk Love) and his estranged on screen wife Lenka, played by the endlessly gifted Carey Mulligan (Promising Young Woman, Maestro), offer an extreme metaphor for a couple drifting apart through time and space.  What is sold as a science fiction drama is really a film about the debilitating nature of isolation and loneliness amongst cohabitants unable to melt through the icy walls of resentment and guilt to celebrate the miracle of their partnership.  Jakub, a native Czech, is sent by his government to the outskirts of Jupiter in order to ascertain the origins of the Chopra Cloud, an unexplained cosmic phenomenon visible from Earth’s surface.  While this solo mission provides Jakub with an endless cycle of tasks to complete,  and humorously, advertisers to appease, it also severs the final sinews of connection left intact with Lenka, rendering him truly alone amongst the stars.

A film that leaves very little room for imagination musters some of its own as Jakub’s isolation is interrupted by Hanuš, a well meaning space spider voiced intriguingly by Paul Dano (There Will be Blood, The Batman). Disappointingly the CG rendered Hanuš serves the singular Dickensian purpose of allowing the wayward traveler to witness the burden of his terrestrial self absorption.  While Hanuš’ presence is enough to evoke a few moments of inward reflection, it isn’t enough to promote overlooking Adam Sandler as a Cosmonaut completely void of any semblance of an accent.  This becomes increasingly forgivable on the strength of Sandler’s performance as he is enveloped by the unforgiving tentacles of depression.  Ultimately, Johan Renck’s Spaceman is a film of undeniable promise that in more patient and trusting hands could have defied gravity on the strength of its thematic lift.  As is, Sandler’s latest is just another Netflix original that will soon vanish back into the infinite space from which it came.

Target Score: 4 /10: Spaceman is a Netflix original to skip, despite offering a meaningful opportunity for valuable introspection.  Apt performances from stars Carey Mulligan and Adam Sandler are not enough to lift this heavy handed sci fi drama from the burdens of its propensity to overexplain itself.