04th Jul2014

‘Gagarin: First in Space’ DVD Review

by Richard Axtell

Stars: Yaroslav Zhalnin, Mikhail Filippov, Olga Ivanova, Vadim Michman, Vladimir Steklov, Viktor Proskurin, Nadezhda Markina, Daniil Vorobyov | Written by Andrey Dmitriev, Oleg Kapanets | Directed by Pavel Parkhomenko

Gagarin-DVD

Gagarin: First in Space is a biographical film which follows the life of Yuri Gagarin, played by Yaroslav Zhalnin, who was the first person ever to go into space (if you hadn’t guessed that already). On April 12, 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Gagarin blasted off in a Vostok rocket and he orbited Earth for 108 minutes. After being chosen from over three thousand pilots throughout the Soviet Union, watch the level of gruelling training he had to go through in preparation for the flight both mental and physical and how the flight affected his life and that of his family.

Don’t expect a 3D magical adventure in space of Gravity-esque proportions when watching Gagarin: First to Space. This film tones down the special effects to deliver a more down to earth (ha!) telling of Yuri’s story as he sets off to be the first man into space, or to die trying. Usually, ‘historic retelling’ stories are stored in my boring file, but that is not the case with this particular tale. The jumps between the preparations for the flight itself and Yuri’s life before, manage to sustain the suspense throughout the film. It manages to capture the excitement of space exploration when it was still at its very roots, the pressures of the cold war to win the space race in Soviet Russia at the time and also the terrifying nature of what could happen to Yuri if it all went wrong.

If you’re one of those people who can’t stand reading subtitles then you’ll have to avoid this film because it is spoken entirely in Russian (also you should feel ashamed for being such a silly person). Also, the soundtrack of Gagarin picks the finest in Russian tunes as they are played dramatically to emphasise the epicness of his voyage, and to be fair they do it very well, going from subtle to full on blasting orchestra in the more dramatic moments.

However, the film does feel a bit propaganda-y. Yuri is portrayed to almost god-like status as he faces his challenge without fear or any kind of… well emotions that would be expected from a man in his position. To say that Yuri did something incredible and should be remembered goes without a doubt, but at times the film does feel a little over the top with its message of ‘look how awesome Yuri was!’

Despite that it might not be a completely accurate portrayal of Yuri, I still found the film to be very enjoyable. Hell, a lot of American films are guilty of plastering ‘God Bless America’ all over the screen every five seconds so it is easy to look beyond the propaganda in this case and just enjoy the film for what it is. A story about space exploration, and the first man ever to see the stars up close.

Gagarin: First in Space is out now on DVD.

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