Written by: Adam Vaughn | July 1st, 2022
Rubikon (Magdalena Lauritsch, 2022) 2½ out of 4 stars.
The most fascinating thing about Magdalena Lauritsch’s debut feature, Rubikon, is her use of some of the most time-sensitive topics about the world coming to an end and humanity’s last hope for redemption. The film weaves the story of a future society where major corporations jockey for control over the planet and how a group of astronauts aboard the space shuttle Rubikon witness the destruction of Earth as we know it. The fate of humanity lies in the hands of the surviving crew members: ex-military and industrial spy Hannah (Julia Franz Richter, Undine), social activist Gavin (George Blagden, How You Look at Me) and biologist Dimitri (Mark Ivanir, Netflix’s Away series). As the three struggle amongst each other on what next steps to take, they receive an alarming message: there are survivors on Earth, and they need their help.
Rubikon utilizes generic but effective sci-fi elements (artificial gravity, advanced technologies in biology and earth sciences, etc.) to push its plot across, and the visual imagery of the film is subtle, which gives the overall impression of widespread terror from the unique view of space. Lauritsch’s art direction feels incredibly inspired by films such as Gravity and Life, as well as shows like Away and Mars, all of which employ (but never fully explore) the fictional elements of space travel. Topped with thrilling plot beats due to compelling editing and attention to sound design, the film’s appeal hits high notes in its most suspenseful timing.
While Rubikon’s aesthetic does it credit, Lauritsch’s story is simpler, overall, mostly due to the fact that it becomes more of a character study versus diving into the full scope of global events. While Richter, Blagden, and Ivanir’s performances are noteworthy, the writing for Hannah, Gavin, and Dimitri waffles in motivation, and the rather uninspired plot twists only help to further confuse the audience. When the characters are not fighting with each other, the film starts to take on a sluggish pacing, and dead space occurs in ways that harm the film’s overall momentum.
Overall, Rubikon takes the concept of the morality of our species and breezes over many big ideas to focus on the less-than-interesting main characters. While it contains an opening exposition that sells the premise, and its hopeful conclusion results in a satisfying ending, the middle ground for the film leaves much to be desired, and a story told with a larger and more diverse cast would have done the film tremendous justice. While Rubikon doesn’t disappoint in composition, I can’t imagine it standing out as a vast accomplishment when up against all the other films out there of similar nature.