directed by Sung-hee JoThe crew of The Victory, a spaceship that collects debris from orbit around Earth, are running into debt. They have to work to make ends meet, but even the work they do costs them money, so they're trapped by the financial system.
It's 2092, and the Earth is dying. In a universe reminiscent of the film Elysium, only a select few chosen people are allowed to ascend to orbit, where the air is clean, the grass is green, and there is enough for people to live on. Everyone else on Earth is left with deserts, pollution, and the destitution of a ruined environment. Behind this deeply unfair system is James Sullivan (Richard Armitage), the rich leader of a powerful corporation called UTS. He gets to decide who can ascend, based on his flawed criteria of moral rectitude.
The crew of The Victory are a loosely-tied group who are falling out over arguments about money, and they are barely getting by. The main character, Tae-ho (Song Joong-ki), can't afford shoes, and is set on getting enough money together so that he can put right a tragedy in his past. There's Robot Bubs (Hyang-gi Kim), the tattooed Tiger Park (Jin Seon-kyu), and Captain Jang (Kim Tae-ri) who is too cool for school. But it's not until they meet young Dorothy(Ye-Rin Park) that they come together as something like a family. Dorothy is a child in hiding, on the run from the authorities because they are accusing her of being a very sophisticated android with huge destructive capabilities. Except she's also a cute kid of about 6 years old, who loves to draw and make jokes. She charms everyone. Although some are harder to charm than others, given what the authorities are saying about how dangerous she is.
With Dorothy being vilified as a terrible danger to humanity, how do the crew know what to believe? And will they take her in and protect her, or give her up for the sake of a huge paycheck? Complicating matters is an underground organisation who are also looking for Dorothy, and willing to take risks to get hold of her before the authorities do.
One nice touch is the sense of how international space is. The rival space-sweeping crews speak a number of languages. The crew communicate in Spanish with the secret underground organisation. It makes a refreshing change from the completely English-speaking futures imagined in a lot of space-based science fiction.
Space Sweepers starts with the crew taking a prized piece of space junk out from the noses of other space sweepers in a fast, exciting chase scene. The promise of that opening is fulfilled later on with plenty more of the same kind of action. It certainly keeps up a fast pace. However, the story has heart, as the characters struggle with the conflict between acting with compassion and bonding as a group, and the difficulties they all face of trying to get by and live with a certain degree of stability, if not comfort. And while it is set in a pessimistic and dystopian society, it's not pessimistic in tone, partly because of the fun the crew manage to have, but also because of the multicultural and inclusive setting which comes through in touches like the many languages everyone happily speaks. There is also a major transformation made by one of the characters, and the cool way the rest of the crew accept and accommodate this is heartwarming.
To an extent, this isn't a movie that delivers any significant novelties. But it is fun, so worth a look.
4th July 2022
Review © Ros Jackson
Source: Netflix streaming