★½

The feeling of being out in the wide-open depths of space is something almost all of us will never experience in our lifetime. I.S.S. does well in conveying the inherent claustrophobia of the International Space Station, and the absolute trust that astronauts from different nations must have in each other while on board. Everything is set up for this film to be the perfect thriller, but director Gabriela Cowperthwaite and screenwriter Nick Shafir deliver a flat, almost comedic, look into a new age of Cold War cinema.

As they head to the International Space Station for a routine visit, Dr. Kira Foster (Ariana DeBose) and Christian Campbell (John Gallagher Jr.) are excited to see the astronauts already on board. The space-soaring duo will meet up with another American, Gordon (Chris Messina), and a trio of Russians, Nicholai (Costa Ronin), Weronika (Masha MashKova), and Alexey (Pilou Asbæk). The six of them treat this more as a reunion, with Dr. Foster being the only first-timer on the station. Things are going great until they notice a strange sight on the earth’s surface: multiple flashes and explosions resembling nuclear bombs. The American and Russian governments make it a priority to contact their respective astronauts on the I.S.S. with one important message: Take control of the I.S.S. by any means necessary.

The premise is set up nicely, and the underlying tension should be enough to guide this movie through to the end. Unfortunately, and almost shockingly, there is not one ounce of suspense throughout the entire 95-minute run time. This is not for a lack of trying, as Cowperthwaite attempts to sprinkle in these moments. There is an underlying theme of human desperation during unprecedented times, but the character interactions never make the audience root for anyone in particular, or maybe more importantly, root against anyone. There is no “bad guy,” as everyone is bound by duty to their country. It just so happens that they were all friends the day before.

The most egregious addition to I.S.S. is the awful sound mixing and soundtrack. When the background music slowly rumbles up in an effort to build tension, it does the complete opposite and sounds more like nails on a chalkboard. Less is more in this situation, and many moments throughout the film would have benefited more from silence, allowing the consistent humming of the overarching space station to provide all the suspense.

I.S.S. attempts to cash in on the ever-evolving drama between the United States and Russia, and uses a unique, but believable, setting to achieve this. The film fails in storytelling, sound design, and character development, leading to an empty payoff that will leave moviegoers feeling disappointed when the end credits roll.