Spacewalkers had me on the edge of my seat throughout the entire film. As the shamelessly uneducated communications graduate that I am, I had no idea how it was going to end.
Minor spoilers to follow…
Did I know that the two cosmonauts survive? No. Did I spend a solid hour fearing that they were going to fall into some space-induced sleep and never wake up? Absolutely. Spoiler alert: both Alexey Leonov (Evgeniy Mironov) and Pavel Belyaev (Konstantin Khabenskiy) live to tell the tale. If you didn’t know that already, don’t complain to me about it. Go and read a book. Or just watch the movie, like I did. No judgement – not from this useless historian, anyway.
Set in the 1960’s, Spacewalkers takes place in the midst of the Cold War, at a time when the USSR and the United States were competing to be the first to send a man into space. Pivoted around Alexey, the film follows him and Pavel on their journey as they prepare for and execute the world’s first human voyage into space. The initial stages of the launch go fairly smoothly and it is not until after Alexey has exited the airlock that things start to go wrong. As the film progresses, Alexey and Pavel prove themselves time and again as their instincts, survival skills and loyalty to country are tested.
Spacewalkers revealed the truth behind the legend of the space race. It delved into the real dangers that the two Russian cosmonauts faced throughout their journey. Beating the Americans into the earth’s orbit was all that the USSR cared for and thus the government placed immense pressure upon the ground team to make it happen. It was nigh impossible to do what was asked of them, and yet the team saw it through. Though a scientist died from electrocution and the initial test ship that was launched was destroyed, giving up was not an option. Russia had a race to run and they intended to sprint.
Sergey Korolev (Vladimir Ilin), the director overseeing the launch, was the hero on the ground. His sole focus was always on the safety and overall wellbeing of both Alexey and Pavel. Under different direction and a different leader, the two would surely have died many times over. He disputed the requests that came to him from higher up and refused to give up on his men. His perseverance and belief in them are what kept his cosmonauts alive.
Director Dmitiry Kiselyov reveals a strength to the Russians that truly becomes them. He portrays them as stubborn, loyal and incredibly brave. Spacewalkers is a beautifully poignant film that emphasises the wonder of human potential and the strength that we possess to survive.
Spacewalkers is screening as part of the 2017 Russian Resurrection Film Festival in Australia from November 9. Click here to see the lineup and purchase tickets.