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Review of "Constellation" - a sleek space thriller that follows in the footsteps of "Gravity".
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Review of “Constellation” – a sleek space thriller that follows in the footsteps of “Gravity”.


If you want sophisticated and refined science fiction, currently the top streaming option is Apple. Among its impressive lineup including For All Mankind, Silo, and Severance, is Constellation, a predictably elegant and classy portrayal of the potential consequences when an astronaut experiences a transformation after a trip to space. It combines elements of space horror and psychological thriller, with visually stunning moments. However, be warned that it may feel uneven and deliberately slow, and it requires all three episodes released this week to start piecing together its storyline.

Unfortunately, its lack of consistency is a disappointment, as there are many appealing aspects. The story follows multiple threads, spanning different timelines and featuring the same actors in various roles. Initially, it presents itself as a horror, set in the harsh winter. Noomi Rapace delivers a stellar performance as Jo Ericsson, a Swedish astronaut who has recently returned to Earth and has brought her daughter Alice to a foreboding cabin in the snow. Jo is visibly agitated and disoriented, constantly playing a disturbing recording that has a strong effect on Alice. The mystery only intensifies as the audience is left clueless about what is truly occurring.

It’s important to become accustomed to this sensation, as both Jo and the audience are constantly kept in a state of confusion. After the unsettling experience in the cabin, which undoubtedly triggered my fears, we are then shown the events leading up to it. Jo is a member of a team aboard the International Space Station, on what should have been a routine mission. However, while speaking with her family on FaceTime, a collision occurs and things take a turn for the worse. (The abundance of Apple products is almost comical: Jo uses an iPad to communicate with Alice from space, and an Apple Watch to keep track of time during a crucial task. It’s surprising they didn’t name it the iSS.)

Several expertly timed moments of terror suggest that this film could rival Gravity. We are aware that Jo successfully returns to Earth, or at least, we make that assumption based on seeing her in the future, reuniting with her loved ones. However, after the intense thrills of the disaster, the film loses its grip. Jonathan Banks makes an appearance as a renowned physicist who is fixated on double-quantum symbols and states of matter that can only exist in zero gravity (I am not familiar with these concepts either, my apologies). But is the potential for groundbreaking science worth the potential harm to humanity? And what if there has already been significant damage inflicted, but we are simply unaware of it?

The constellation experiences both bursts of excitement and moments of unsettling subtlety. One notorious tactic of the Manson family was to enter their victims’ homes and slightly rearrange the furniture, causing distress. As Jo begins to realize that things are not as she remembers, such as her car being a different color and Alice no longer speaking Swedish fluently, it becomes as frightening as when figurative monsters jump out of the dark. This adds a twist reminiscent of the film Inception, utilizing Alice’s beaded necklace that makes noise against door handles when perspectives suddenly change.

However, it continues to experience extended periods of low energy. It is evident that the influential organizations involved in determining the fate of the ISS are concealing something. The recurring theme of doppelgangers and duplicates is present. There are mysterious pills and undisclosed agreements, and when Jo gives her testimony about what she saw in space, there is a growing feeling that everyone would rather she pretend she was mistaken. The overall tone of the work is uncertain as to whether it wants to make a bold statement or be more subtle, and it does not quite achieve either successfully.

I am reminded of Julia Armfield’s eerie novel, Our Wives Under the Sea, when I think about the theme of Constellation. Both stories involve a traveler returning from a deep-water expedition. However, literary fiction has the advantage of delving into the murky depths of psychological distress, while television needs to maintain a faster pace. As the story progresses and its secrets are revealed, Constellation improves, but it requires a strong commitment to fully embrace its purpose.

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  • Constellation is on Apple TV+

Source: theguardian.com