Spaceman Review

Adam Sandler delivers another excellent dramatic role in a unique film about love and loneliness in the depths of outer space.

Last Updated on March 5, 2024

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PoG1f7XFFo

PLOT: An astronaut realizes that the marriage he left behind might not be waiting for him when he returns to Earth.
Desperate to fix things with his wife, he is helped by a mysterious ancient creature he finds hiding in the bowels of his ship.

REVIEW: It should no longer be surprising when Adam Sandler stars in dramatic roles. When Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch-Drunk Love was released in 2002, Sandler was best known for films like Big Daddy and Little Nicky. Even though Sandler still releases broad comedies like Hubie Halloween and Murder Mystery, the actor has proven his talents in movies like Uncut Gems and Hustle. Adam Sandler’s latest dramatic project is Spaceman, a science-fiction tale set in the void of the solar system. Partnered with Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan and acclaimed director Johan Renck, Spaceman is another solid performance from Adam Sandler that once again proves how good he is given the right material. While the movie itself may not be as good as some of Sandler’s aforementioned dramatic projects, it is still an interesting story about isolation and love.

Spaceman review

Based on the novel Spaceman of Bohemia, the film opens with Jakub Procházka (Adam Sandler) aboard a vessel on its way past Jupiter to investigate the mysterious Chopra Cloud, a nebula of purple particles that appeared in the sky. An experienced astronaut for the Czech space agency, Jakub has been alone aboard his ship for over one hundred and thirty days. The isolation has begun to eat at Jakub, including a rattling toilet that has prevented him from sleeping. Jakub communicates with Peter (Kunal Nayyar) and his commanding officer, Commissioner Tuma (Isabella Rossellini), but has not heard from his wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan). Unbeknownst to Jakub, Lenka has decided to end their marriage despite being pregnant with their child. As Jakub contends with his loneliness, he reminisces about his love for Lenka as he heads toward the goal of his mission. That is when Hanus appears. Voiced by Paul Dano, Hanus is an alien who looks like a giant spider and can read Jakub’s thoughts.

The introduction of the alien creature initially frightens Jakub, but throughout the film, he forms a friendship with the spider that alleviates his isolation similar to how Tom Hanks had Wilson the volleyball in Cast Away. Hanus probes Jakub’s mind which allows the astronaut to question the decisions that led him to this journey and away from Lenka. On Earth, Lenka struggles with her isolation as she shuts off communication with Jakub even as she confides in Zdena (Lena Olin) about her feelings. The shifting focus between Jakub in space and Lenka on Earth allows for Adam Sandler and Carey Mulligan to explore the relationship between their characters through memories and dream-like visions. The surreal and ethereal look of these scenes is the most beautiful part of Spaceman which is anchored in Cold War-era designs for the Earth-based scenes at the Czech mission control and homes of the various characters. The technology on display appears archaic and accentuates the slightly odd look and tone of the film, echoing a similar feel in the film Swiss Army Man which, coincidentally, starred Paul Dano.

Clocking in at an hour and forty-seven minutes, Spaceman employs very deliberate pacing rooted in softly-spoken dialogue that at times comes across as rigid or wooden. I initially found the delivery of the dialogue to feel like it was being translated from a foreign language but this eventually transitions to the scenes taking on an almost poetic quality. Almost everyone aside from Adam Sandler boasts an accent of one kind or another and Sandler’s delivery occasionally borders on a vague European lilt. The European sensibility of the film gives Spaceman a feel unlike any other Sandler project to date, but it often feels like it is masking a weaker film by wrapping it in quirkiness to hide a lack of depth. The middle of act of the film often languishes in repeated moments that drive a wedge between Jakub and his alien friend before bringing them back together as he realizes more about himself. Adam Sandler spends so much of Spaceman alone or acting opposite a CGI creation that the film serves as a showcase for his acting abilities that he struggles to meet. Adam Sandler is quite good in this film but a stronger actor likely would have been a better fit.

Screenwriter Colby Day does not deviate much from the source material, keeping the setting, names, and tone of Jaroslav Kalfar’s novel. This allows director Johan Renck to dive into visual tricks he has not explored much to date. Renck, a veteran music video director, has helmed numerous television series like Bates Motel, VIkings, Bloodline, Breaking Bad, and Halt and Catch Fire but his critical acclaim came after he made 2019’s HBO series Chernobyl. By following up on that stunning project with Spaceman, Renck gets to blend stylistic elements from his music video work with a feature film format. Renck balances out the visual magic of this project, born from cinematographer Jakob Ihre, with a haunting score from composer Max Richter. The music in Spaceman is something quite stirring and when that is played against the dreamy tone of the images on screen, this film feels grander than it actually is. So much of the movie feels like an experiment for Renck as a director that it sacrifices the balance between being an edgy indie film with a mainstream crowdpleaser.

Spaceman review

Believe it or not but Spaceman is the weirdest movie of Adam Sandler’s career. As a science fiction drama, the film feels like an arthouse twist on Interstellar and Solaris but through the lens of a filmmaker too reliant on familiar tropes of the genre. Spaceman wants to say something prescient about the human condition and how it relates to loneliness and isolation. But, because it wallows in an existential sadness where the energy of the characters never rises above somber, the movie is just too slow to garner any momentum. Spaceman is not a bad movie but it wastes an opportunity to say something substantial. While it could have benefited from a livelier edit, Spaceman is still an endearing watch with a great performance from Adam Sandler and a heartbreaking one from the always-excellent Carey Mulligan. This movie will not go down as one of Sandler’s defining performances, but it will certainly be an interesting footnote along the way.

Spaceman

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Alex Maidy has been a JoBlo.com editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been JoBlo.com's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.