Here’s a pitch for you: ‘funny man’ (depending on your use of the term) Adam Sandler in space! Now if you’re not a Sandler-rite - the unofficial term for his fans – this premise is unlikely to appeal to you, unless it involves him being sucked out of an airlock within the first five minute.

But don’t be so dismissive; Sandler has proven, on at least two occasions, having made films worthy of a watch if you’re not a fan of his usual comedic shtick, those being 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love and 2019’s Uncut Gems. They can now be considered a trilogy with the addition of this thought-provoking drama.

boom reviews Spaceman
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Jakub (Sandler) has gone to work, which his wife Lenka (Carey Mulligan) isn’t too happy about, as it’s taking him 500 million kilometres away, being in the outer depths of space.

Jakub is a cosmonaut tasked with investigating the Chopra, a mysterious purple cloud, just on the other side of Jupiter.

He is the only crew member on board, so you can imagine, coping with boredom is a major issue. Another one is his wife, who is pregnant, who Jakub knows that by accepting this mission has put his relationship with her on very precarious grounds. More so than he realises in fact, as her plans are to divorce him.

Living in such a confined space, so far from home alone, isn’t ideal. But then he discovers he isn’t actually alone, when an Arachnid-type creature introduces himself when he makes himself known. The creature (voiced by Paul Dano), has been observing Jakub for some time, and believes he has some words of wisdom that just may well save the cosmonaut from a life of solitude.

boom reviews Spaceman
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So as you may have gathered, this is not your usual Adam Sandler project. As a point of reference, it’s less Spaceballs and more 2001: A Space Odyssey in terms of tone and maturity.

The material, based on Jaroslav Kalfař’s 2017 novel Spacemen of Bohemia would definitely have to be described as a more mature, cerebral story, exploring more interpersonal skills rather than interplanetary. In short, it’s a love story in space.

It is a film with some emotional depth, so the question needs to be asked, was Sandler the right person for the job? And the answer has to be no; there are a number of actors who could have added far more to the character, certainly giving him more weight in space, as it were.

That said, Sandler still manages to deliver a striking performance, considering his limited range, especially when you consider he spends nearly all of the film on his own, with his scenes with the talking creature obviously being CGI.

It also begs the question whether the film attracted a whole new audience with Sandler involved, or would it have landed on more solid ground in the hands of a Cumberbatch or Fassbender, say. Or putting it another way, you have a film that fans of Sandler won’t see him in, and a more sophisticated audience who will stay away due to Sandler’s involvement.

Still, its director Johan Renck, with only his second major feature, having directed numerous episodes of watchable TV (including Breaking Bad and the recent miniseries Chernobyl), a compilation album of various music videos and high profile TV commercials, has made an atmospheric and thought-provoking film, with a surprising number of emotional notes.

What’s more, it looks special, capturing an analogue, Cold War vibe, giving it a cool, retro feel. He also did it for an impressive budget of only $40 million, which must have pleased Netflix as many of their recent releases have cost between $100-200 million to make.

It certainly thinks it’s smarter than it really is occasionally, trying to create a HAL-type relationship between Jakub and the creature – albeit less threatening and more patient on a therapist’s couch – where the tone doesn’t always fit, and yet it still manages to convey a sense of distance physically and emotionally between the married couple, as well as an interesting relationship between a human and deliberately unattractive alien, who will win over hearts eventually.

Ultimately though, it’s strangely absorbing piece of experimental cinema, which takes a fair number of risks, on the casting front as well as thematically that hopefully won’t get lost in space.

we give this three out of five