Ariana DeBose stars in a scene from the movie “I.S.S.” (OSV News photo/Bleecker Street)

NEW YORK (OSV News) – The psychological thriller “I.S.S.” (Bleecker Street) highlights positive values and teaches a civilizing lesson. But, as penned by screenwriter Nick Shafir, director Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s drama of shifting allegiance and unpredictable behavior never gains traction and ultimately registers as a slack, by-the-numbers exercise.

In large part, that’s due to the poorly sketched character of its protagonist, astronaut Kira Foster (Ariana DeBose). Aside from a brief exchange in the dialogue revealing that Kira is attracted to women rather than men – de rigueur these days – she remains more the representative of a particular outlook on life than a fully rounded person. So, too, do those around her.

The action begins as Kira arrives on the International Space Station. The crew she joins there is made up of two other Americans, Gordon Barrett (Chris Messina) and Christian Campbell (John Gallagher Jr.), and a trio of Russians: Weronika Vetrov (Masha Mashkova) and brothers Nicholai (Costa Ronin) and Alexey (Pilou Asbaek) Pulov.

Before she can settle into the routine of life on board, though, Kira finds herself in a potentially deadly conflict. A nuclear war between the U.S. and Russia has broken out on Earth and she, Gordon and Chirstian soon receive secret orders to wrest control of the I.S.S. “by any means necessary.”

Have the cosmonauts been given similar instructions? If so, what methods might they resort to in order to fulfill them? Are they enemies or still scientific comrades?

The quandary is a potentially interesting one with twists and turns resulting from uncertain loyalties and restricted communications. (A large chess board on one of the walls of the vessel serves as the visual symbol of the life-or-death contest into which Kira and the others have been plunged.)

But Kira remains mostly a cipher. So viewers are unlikely to feel entirely caught up in her dilemma or fully invested in her fate.

There is a respectable message about trust and human solidarity underlying the proceedings. And the people on board who behave in the most humane manner are eventually rewarded for it. Yet the story comes and goes without making much of an impact or impression. Call it a lack of gravitational pull.

The film contains brief but nasty physical violence with some gore, references to lesbianism, about a half-dozen instances each of mild swearing and rough language, a few crude terms and occasional crass talk. The OSV News classification is A-III – adults. The Motion Picture Association rating is R – restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.



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