Spaceman review: Adam Sandler journeys into a trippy interstellar cloud with a giant Nutella-loving alien spider

Johan Renck’s film turns out to ponderous, however, eschewing journey and destination in favour of the symbolic

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Director: Johan Renck
Cert: None
Genre: Science Fiction
Starring: Adam Sandler, Carey Mulligan, Kunal Nayyar, Isabella Rossellini, Paul Dano
Running Time: 1 hr 47 mins

Spaceman, which stars Adam Sandler as an astronaut who journeys into a trippy purple interstellar cloud with a giant Nutella-loving alien spider, is far more ponderous than the description would seem to allow for. With a nod to such allegorical space adventures as James Gray’s Ad Astra and Alice Winocour’s Proxima, Johan Renck’s film eschews both journey and destination in favour of the symbolic.

Adapted from Jaroslav Kalfar’s 2017 novel Spaceman of Bohemia, the film concerns a pioneering Czech astronaut, Jakub (Sandler), on a solo mission to investigate a mysterious particle settling known as the Chopra Cloud. Sandler, affecting a slight European accent, is as weary here as he was impressively frantic in Uncut Gems. Six months into his voyage he’s battling with sleep deprivation, product-placement announcements for the earthlings back home, and a broken lavatory when he hears a strange voice. Is the lonely explorer hallucinating a cuddly, kindly gigantic tarantula voiced by Paul Dano? Or is he cracking up?

Colby Day’s script is more interested in Jakub’s disintegrating marriage to the pregnant Lenka, played by the veteran long-suffering screen wife Carey Mulligan. “I have to leave you. I’m sorry it has to be now,” she snivels on a comms device introduced as “500 million kilometres away. Quantum faster than the speed of light Czech-phone”. Talk about bad timing. The message is understandably intercepted and suppressed by Jakub’s commanding officer (Isabella Rossellini), but the titular traveller senses something is amiss.

Sandler’s performance, Jan Houllevigue’s post-Soviet production designs and Max Richter’s soaring score enliven a handsome if dreary drama. The pacing, alas, is painfully slow, and every character save the spider is underwritten. Ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space. If only we had somewhere exciting to go.


Spaceman is in selected cinemas and on Netflix from Friday, March 1st

Tara Brady

Tara Brady

Tara Brady, a contributor to The Irish Times, is a writer and film critic