Film Review – Spaceman



***Warning: This Review Contains Minor Spoilers***

At this point, it should no longer be a surprise to see Adam Sandler in roles that utilize his dramatic skillset. Sure, we’ve seen this side of him dating all the way back to the early part of his career. But for every Punch-Drunk Love (2002) we were inundated with a barrage of low-brow, cheap comedies. In recent years, “The Sand Man” has taken on parts that ask him to be more than just a lovable goofball – to really stretch himself as an actor. I, for one, welcome this new era. Whether the result is successful or not, I would much rather see Sandler take a chance on an off-beat project rather than settling for a paycheck.

Spaceman (2024) fits right into this wheelhouse. Here, we see Sandler in arguably his most subdued role. He plays Jakub, a Czech cosmonaut on a solo mission to reach and research a mysterious cloud at the edge of our solar system. When we meet him, Jakub has entered the sixth month of deep space isolation. The strain is showing. He has not been getting good sleep, as a malfunction with the lavatory causes it to make loud, annoying noises. He reports this to Peter (Kunal Nayyar) back on Earth at mission control, but his pleas fall on deaf ears. More importantly, Jakub has lost communication with his wife, Lenka (Carey Mulligan), which puts extra pressure on his mental health. The result of all these influences has taken a toll on Jakub, with his face becoming haggard and his movements appearing zombie-like. 


Things get even more bizarre with the introduction of Hanus (Paul Dano), a giant spider. Yes, you read that right, a giant spider shows up in Jakub’s ship. Not only can Hanus verbally communicate with Jakub, but apparently, he has been studying him for some time and is curious to learn more. This dynamic turns into a kind of therapy session for Jakub. His initial shock and fear dissolves into a mutual understanding, to the point that Jakub shares the details of his own life with the arachnid. Hanus, unsuspectingly, is caught off guard with the depths of Jakub’s depression. The spider is so bummed out, in fact, that he ends up eating some of Jakub’s food as a consolatory snack. 

So, what does a man alone in space talking to a spider have to do with anything? The heart of the narrative becomes the deteriorating relationship between Jakub and Lenka. We are told that Lenka is feeling the pressure of not having her husband around, tempting her to pull away from the marriage. However, on the flip side, she is told by Jakub’s commanding officer (Isabella Rossellini) that if she were to leave him while he is away, he may fall into the darkness and never return. Much is made of Jakub and Lenka’s troubled romance, but I’m not so sure it amounts to much. We get several flashback scenes to when they were together: the happy times, the bad times, and the question of whether Jakub should’ve left Lenka to go into space. However, the emotion of these scenes remains on the surface. Visually, the flashbacks are shot with heavy distortion along the edges of the frame, as though everything were reflected from a carnival mirror. The warped images water down the authenticity of the scenes, dulling the emotional impact.

I would go so far as to say that the connection between Jakub and Hanus feels more fleshed out than Jakub and his own wife. Paul Dano employs a monotone verbal delivery, making Hanus appropriately alien yet somehow dryly humorous. The way he describes Jakub as a “Skinny Human” is funny in its subtle condescension. But Hanus is not here to make fun of Jakub – he continuously asks him questions the way a psychiatrist would poke and prod to find a deeper understanding of their patients. Is Hanus an actual alien being that somehow found its way into Jakub’s presence or is he a figment of Jakub’s broken mindset? It doesn’t really matter. Through his talk with Hanus, Jakub comes to some bitter truths about himself, how he has treated (or mistreated) his wife, and where his priorities truly lie.


The production design conjures environments like a blend of past and present. The spaceship and mission control have a dated aesthetic, incorporating a color palette of light greens and yellows. The technology feels old school with panels, switch boards, and monitors all looking like they came from the 1960s. The screenplay (Colby Day, adapting Jaroslav Kalfar’s book) and direction (Johan Renck) sets the tone with a very methodical pacing. Those who will not enjoy this will likely point out how glacial the story plays out. It also doesn’t help that nearly all the characters are instructed to speak in low, hushed voices. Everyone, including Sandler, Mulligan, and Dano, speak at a register barely above a whisper. Much of the dialogue is exposition heavy, where characters explain every possible emotion they are going through. There is no nuance in the way these people see themselves and each other, they make sure that we know exactly what they are thinking without letting us figure it out for ourselves. 

But even with those hiccups, Spaceman still works through the empathetic view it takes on all the characters. Jakub has made bad decisions in his life, but I don’t think he is a bad person. When he yearns to see and talk to Lenka, we can sense the desperation in his voice. Sandler is very good at expressing the “sad sack” side of the role, filling him with the loneliness and yearning that is very much caused by his own hand. While Lenka is a severely underwritten character, Carey Mulligan makes the most of the small opportunities she is given. We’re even won over by Hanus despite his surreal form. Whenever Hanus expresses inquisitiveness, frustration, or even anger, the special effects and Dano’s voicework make the spider convincing.

Spaceman doesn’t have the intrigue or mystery that other sci-fi/romance films offer, namely Solaris (1972). But the oddity of the premise combined with the strength of the performances make this worth exploring, even if some consider it too restrained for its own good. This is yet another example of Adam Sandler reaching out and trying things outside of his comfort zone, and that is a good thing. 




Allen is a moviegoer based out of Seattle, Washington. His hobbies include dancing, playing the guitar, and, of course, watching movies.

You can reach Allen via email or Twitter

View all posts by this author