Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film “I.S.S” (2024) is a tense, brisk sci-fi thriller loaded with a plea for harmony and universal fraternity that cuts across narrow national obligations and its dehumanizing politics. Characters of the film are confronted with big decisions forced on them by their respective country folk. Whether they act on it or not and how such critical, covert tasks jeopardize unity lend emotional texture to the film that is less interested in showing off any high technique or visual wizardry. The focus of the film is resolutely on its interpersonal dynamics and how it gets shaped, either ruptured or remade, by the self-serving agendas of nation-states. The film is a strong appeal to reduce the all-pervasive impact of intensely forged national ties that override essential humanity and find common ground where both purportedly warring sides can work together for the betterment of all.

I.S.S (2024) Plot Summary & Movie Synopsis:

Taking place sometime in the near future, the film is almost entirely set on a space vessel that acts as a research facility devoted to groundbreaking progress in science, medicine, and technology. Importantly, the space station serves as a statement of friendship between the US and the USSR, with scientists from both countries aboard working side by side.

The film opens with the entry of Dr Kira Foster (Ariana DeBose) aboard the space station. Her American co-workers include Christian ( John Gallagher Jr) and Gordon (Chris Messina). The Russian team also has equal strength comprising two men, Alexey ( Pilou Asbaek) and Nikolai (Costa Ronin), and a woman, Weronika (Masha Mashkova). Weronika and Gordon have been pursuing a clandestine romance. While the two teams get along more or less amicably, there are obviously some differences in the sense of humor and nostalgic value. Things go by breezily in the space ship until Kira peers out the window and notices to her horror a cloud of explosions creeping over the whole of Earth.

What Messages Do The Astronauts Receive?

As panic starts building among the crew, everyone tries to immediately seek transcriptions from the land. Secret messages start rolling in for both the Americans and Russians. Gordon gets an instruction that his new objective is to take instant control of the ship, learning the countries have declared war. He doesn’t disclose this information, biding his time and reposing trust in the Russians.

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Gordon takes it upon himself to manually fix an antennae. He exits the vessel and makes his way through space while Kira keeps communicating with him. Through their conversation, we learn a bit of Kira’s history. She had lost a loved one to organ failure. Therefore, she embarked on a project of artificial organs but discovered it was futile on Earth with gravity. Therefore, she is on the space vessel. But Kira also talks of being in love and getting cheated. One could also assume she has left Earth to escape heartbreak and look for a fresh chapter that could help her dissociate from the grief.

I.S.S (2023) Movie Ending Explained
A still from I.S.S (2023)

Meanwhile, Alexey sneakily cuts off the comms wire and supplants it with a dummy to render the manipulation invisible. All communication between Kira and Gordon is instantly snapped. There is also Nikolai. He nefariously orchestrates a roving space arm that pushes Gordon off the trail, sending him spiraling into space. When Weronika discovers this from her colleagues, she is utterly aghast at the low they have stooped to. They try assuaging her that they did it for their own self-preservation and for fulfilling their nation’s best interest. But she adamantly refuses to be influenced by their brutal logic.

In many ways, the film positions the two women as the voice of compassion and humanity, who emit trust and faith. Weronika secretly approaches Kira, confiding in her details of Alexey’s research findings into a cure for radiation sickness. She passes on a lock key of Alexey’s vault as Kira trades her key. It is a gesture of trust. Weronika persuades her to steal the findings, get on the Soyuz spacecraft, and sneak away to Earth to initiate aid without anyone knowing of her departure. Kira is initially reluctant. However, she eventually agrees when Weronika assures her it is the only solution that will secure humanity.

How And Why Does The Plan Fall Through?

Weronika feigns to blow up the ship as a way of wresting the attention of everyone away from noticing Kira’s preparations for departure. However, Christian rams her with heavy equipment, leaving her dead. The murderous paranoia only gets exacerbated further. With Weronika dead, Nikolai vows to avenge her death and kill off Kira and Christian. Alexey doesn’t support his actions. Suddenly, he discovers Gordon still alive, latching on in space. He sends out an arm which guides Gordon back to the station. On his return and learning Weronika is dead, he grabs Nikolai, pulls him into a separate room, locks it up, and the two get into a fierce fight. It ends with the two stabbing each other to death.

I.S.S (2024) Movie Ending Explained:

Who Leaves on the Soyuz?

The three remaining people who are alive grieve the deaths. Kira realizes Christian has cut off the station’s life support system. She also discovers Christian has made all preparations to leave on the Soyuz with Alexey’s research. This reveals he knew about Kira’s plan and had lied to Kira about no such research finding existing when she had asked about Alexey’s studies on a cure for radiation sickness.

Christian tries to engage Kira in a private conversation. But Kira keeps secretly gesturing to Alexey to pay attention to the muted environment because the life support has been shut down. Kira insists Alexey stay on the Russian side, reminding him that they are always meant to stick together. Alexey and Kira strangle Christian to death. Ultimately, the two decide to depart on the Soyuz as it free falls. News trickles in of aid coming in. However, they aren’t sure if it is the Americans or the Russians attempting to board the station. The two sever all ties with their governments and nations, putting trust and faith in one another as paramount, letting the Soyuz fall wherever it does. They may land in an alien territory or not even survive the fall. Nevertheless, they are assured in their essential belief in humanity staying intact.

Read More: I.S.S. (2024) Movie Review: A Mixed Thriller Leaving Its Characters Floating in the Emptiness of Space

Trailer:

I.S.S (2024) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
The Cast of I.S.S (2024) Movie: Ariana DeBose, Chris Messina, John Gallagher Jr., Masha Mashkova, Costa Ronin, Pilou Asbæk
I.S.S (2024) Movie Genre: Sci-fi/Mystery & thriller, Runtime: 1h 35m
Where to watch I.S.S.

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