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  Weather Station, The Winter Draws On
Year: 2010
Director: Johnny O’Reilly
Stars: Pyotr Logachev, Vladimir Gusev, Sergey Garmash, Aleksey Guskov, Anton Shagin, Sergey Yushkevich, Marina Aleksandrova, Egor Pazenko, Kirill Burdikhin, Andrey Peshekhodko, Denis Gusev
Genre: ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Out at this remote Russian weather station where meteorologists collect data on the climate, something strange has occurred. Nothing has been heard from them on their radio for a good two days, which has led a party of officials to arrive by helicopter to investigate, and when nobody is there to greet them their suspicions are raised all the more. There is no sign of the three men who were supposed to be present, there are no signs of any struggle, and the only strange thing to be seen aside from the complete lack of staff is the radio has been smashed. To work out what has happened we must skip back in time to a few days before…

If you really wanted to feel the chill of winter in your bones then you could do a lot worse than this mystery thriller, a co-production from Europe that centred on Russia, with actors from that part of the world playing out the sort of Agatha Christie style thriller that could go down very well on a quiet Sunday evening, should you be so inclined. It was nothing momentous, but the impression of a job well done by all concerned left a feeling of satisfaction, even if in the end it was over with too quickly – it barely lasted eighty minutes without credits – to represent what in other hands could have been a real feast.

Consider it a nice supper before bedtime and you’d be more along the right lines, though the behaviour on display was perhaps a lot less than pleasant. It began with the classic lighthouse at Flannan Isles set up, as the three men who were expected to be there were vanished without trace much as the lighthouse keepers had done over a century before this had been filmed. It’s such a potent puzzle that it is returned to again and again in the sort of pop culture that prefers to dwell on mysteries – Doctor Who had a go at it in the seventies, for instance – though the explanation concocted by director Johnny O’Reilly was not exactly going to fit with anything but the conundrum as established here.

The problem with coming up with solutions to apparently baffling cases was that the explanation the writers generated could be a letdown if there was insufficient ingenuity, but that was not the case with The Weather Station, or Pryachsya as it was called in its land of origin. Without giving anything away, the structure was a neatly edited parallel storyline between the investigation of the mystery and the events that took place a short time before, eventually converging by the last five minutes in what was hoped to be clever enough, yet also perfectly fair to the audience, so any cheating would be all too obvious and preferably avoided, which if not wholly stunning especially was something O’Reilly did not concern the interested viewer with.

He was an Irishman who had found himself in Moscow making waves in the Russian film industry, not the most obvious way to break in to showbusiness but one that evidently was working out for him by the time he managed to helm this, his debut feature after some shorts. Though The Weather Station was by no means a worldwide blockbuster, as it unfolded, detailing the eccentricities of the missing meteorologists and their dividing their free time between making matchstick models, hunting the Yeti and getting on each other’s nerves, a fair suspense was able to place it at a higher status than many of the lesser and less imaginative examples of world cinema among those who did happen upon it. As it doled out the twists, added motives and settled on the age old issue of human greed as the basis for the events, then sprung an extra strata of revenge, it certainly packed a lot into its skimpy running time. In olden days it would have been a very decent B movie; if it was a little lost now, it was still worth a look for thriller addicts.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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