Rubikon (2022) Movie Ending, Explained: An audience signing up to see a film set in space is already biased by their assumptions of what exactly a space film should deliver. Survival, adventure, and horror have become the three hallmarks via which these space-set big-budgeted films draw in their spectators. Alien (1979) and its sequels, Apollo 13 (1995), Gravity (2013), and The Martian (2015), not only enjoyed enormous critical and box-office but also aided in cementing the conventions of a film that seeks to chart into the solar system.
Any film not adhering to the genre thrills will likely be lambasted by the audiences. This has probably been the case with the Austrian film Rubikon (2022)—a science fiction drama set in space that is more interested in probing existential questions about life than it is in delivering one asteroid jolt after another. Due to its privileging of the philosophical over standard adventure fare, Rubikon has not enjoyed the critical reception (the film has an underwhelming score of 4.9/10 on IMDb) that a movie of its caliber arguably deserves.
This low-budget (yet dexterously made) feature film’s trailer wrongly marketed it as a survival space drama in the vein of Gravity—which likely explains the film’s negative critical reception. Rubikon has more in common with Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) though both films have varying thematic concerns. While Rubikon does not dwell on elusive or symbolic imagery like Kubrick’s magnum opus, its prescient examination of capitalism, morality, and ethics in an apocalyptic world is extremely timely.
Tighten your seatbelts as we head to space to explore Rubikon and some of the questions posed by the film’s complex narrative. As always, a SPOILER ALERT!
Rubikon (2022) Plot Summary and Movie Synopsis
Rubikon is set in the year 2056, wherein climate change has wreaked so much havoc that it has made Earth virtually unlivable due to the deteriorated air quality. The rich people live in unique air domes which filter the contaminated oxygen from outside. The Earth has also become a capitalist nightmare, with big corporations replacing governments and states. These corporations further make use of armies to annex resources and territories. Despite trying, people have failed to find refuge on any other planet. Only one corporation—the Nibra owns the last research space station and is trying to use an algae system to solve the environmental crisis on Earth.
When the film opens, we follow Officer Hannah Wagner (Julia Franz Richter) and Dr. Gavin Abbott (George Blagden), a chemist traveling to Rubikon, the space station owned by Nibra. Later in a video call with her soldier sister Knopf (Hannah Rang), we learn that Hannah has taken this dangerous mission to space so that her sister is transferred to the Central Air Dome.
The space station comprises several crew members, including Dr. Dimitri Krylow (Mark Ivanir) and his son, Danilo (Konstantin Frolov). Dimitri and Danilo have been testing their algae system on the station—the algae works by taking carbon dioxide from humans and transforming it into oxygen and gelatinous food material that provides all the nutrients. As Dimitri welcomes Hannah and Gavin into the crew, a mild altercation ensues between Gavin and Danilo. Since Gavin comes from a privileged family who lives in the air domes, Danilo teases him for his familial roots.
Later, the entire crew barring Hannah, Gavin, and Dimitri, head over to the Earth to deliver some of the algae cultures to test them on Earth. Sensing eccentric behavior from Dimitri and Danilo, Hannah suspects they are taking corrupted samples for testing. After the crew has left, Hannah receives a call from her superiors at Nibra, who orders her to move ‘IKARUS’ (later explained in the narrative) as soon as possible. During the call, it is inferred that Hannah is here to take the algae culture from Dimitri and take it back to Earth since they suspect that Dimitri is not delivering the correct samples.
Before Hannah can break into Dimitri’s lab, she receives a message from other crew members who are traveling to Earth in a capsule. The crew is unable to connect to Earth. When Hannah goes to investigate, she notices the Earth is enveloped in a brown fog. Soon, Hannah and Dimitri hear frantic cries from the crew, who are burnt alive inside the capsule, including Dimitri’s son Danilo. Dimitri is heartbroken after his son’s death and locks himself inside his private room. Meanwhile, Hannah receives a message from her sister, who tells her that every base camp is being evacuated on Earth due to the fog.
Why Does Gavin Decide To Kill Himself?
After this unexpected catastrophe, Gavin begins to investigate the cause of this fog. After realizing something horrible, Gavin proceeds to kill himself but is rescued in time by Hannah and Dimitri. As Gavin lies unconscious, Hannah confronts Dimitri about his research. It is revealed that Dimitri had already succeeded in making a symbiotic algae system in the station and was sending the wrong samples to Earth on purpose. Hannah accuses Dimitri of betraying Nibra, who funded his entire research. Dimitri counters Hannah revealing that the algae belong to him and Danilo, who poured their whole time into creating this system. They would rather have the system for themselves than sell out to the rich.
When Gavin wakes up, he reveals that the brown fog that has taken over Earth is highly toxic—and has possibly eradicated every form of life there. He further speculates that the fog reacted with other lethal gases from Earth’s pollutants, causing a massive chain reaction on the planet. Even the air domes owned by wealthy people are not built to purify this toxic air—implying the fog would have killed everyone living inside them, including Gavin’s parents and friends. Unable to bear the loss of everyone, Gavin tries to kill himself in despair.
Hannah assures Gavin that the three of them are safe on the space station as the algae system works. But Gavin cannot fathom the idea of being stuck forever in space. Dimitri warns that if Gavin again tries to kill himself, he will also end up killing Hannah and him. This is because the algae system requires the carbon dioxide of at least three people to convert it into oxygen. If Gavin dies, the algae will be unable to survive, and this, in turn, would kill Hannah and Dimitri.
What Do The Trio Decide To Do Next?
Left with no choice but to remain on the station, Gavin, Hannah, and Dimitri begin to bond with each other. Hannah tells Dimitri about her sister and wonders if she can survive the fog. She also has an existential epiphany as she wonders if all her sacrifices and hard work were worth it, especially considering that she has been trapped in space for her entire life. Gavin and Hannah also develop a romantic relationship during the course.
During a card game, Dimitri reveals that he hid his algae samples from Nibra because they only wanted them for the rich people’s domes, not the general public. He confesses that he was initially lured by the vast amount of money offered by Nibra, but Danilo was vehemently against selling out to the rich.
A few weeks later, Hannah sees some of the algae growing brown and shares her worry with Dimitri, who begins to investigate the changes. Soon, Hannah and Gavin receive a call through an old ISS radio system from some of the survivors from Earth. The call is from a woman called Esther, who tells Hannah that she is the representative of the three hundred survivors living inside a safe bunker. Esther also reveals that the bunker only has limited oxygen and resources.
Initially elated to realize that not everyone has died on the planet, Hannah receives a blow when Esther reveals that only the wealthy CEOs and their families are alive inside the bunker. Since they had bought stocks of Dimitri’s algae research, Esther and other CEOs are aware of the potential of his system. When Gavin inquires about his family, Esther reveals that Gavin’s family is not present in the bunker, hinting they might not have made it alive from the toxic fog.
After some speculation, Gavin and Hannah decide to take the algae samples to the Earth to help the survivors and propose the plan to Dimitri.
What Does Dimitri Reveal To Hannah and Gavin?
Despite being aware of the survivors, Dimitri is hesitant to go to Earth with the spacecraft, believing the entire enterprise to be too risky. Gavin and Dimitri get into an argument—with the former adamant about helping the survivors on Earth. Dimitri sees a spark of his own son in Gavin—and fears that, like Danilo, Gavin would sacrifice himself to help others. Dimitri further suggests leaving the rich CEOs stranded on Earth as they would have never come down to help poor people like Hannah. Gavin is frustrated by Dimitri’s lack of responsibility and rushes back to his room.
Despite Dimitri’s reluctance, Hannah and Gavin feel a moral responsibility to help the survivors and decide to take the cultures to Earth. However, later Dimitri reveals that the reason for the algae growing brown is due to Hannah’s urine which has a higher concentration of HCG—a hormone produced during one’s pregnancy. Hannah is shocked to realize that she is pregnant with Gavin’s child—and begins to rethink her decision to go to Earth.
What Happens To The Space Capsule?
After learning of her pregnancy, Hannah wonders if she should go down to Earth as the harmful radiation will likely kill her baby. Nevertheless, she decides that the lives of three hundred people are worth more than her unborn child.
The next day, Gavin and Hannah are surprised to see Dimitri getting ready to join them on the mission—especially considering his earlier inhibitions about helping the rich. As the trio gets into the capsule, they realize that the cooling system of the shuttle is not working. Before the capsule explodes into space, the three of them manage to make it back safely to the station. When they get inside, Hannah learns that the cooling system was shut down eleven hours ago. Gavin is heartbroken after the blast—destroying the last available option to go back to Earth.
What is IKARUS?
As Hannah is exercising later, she is confronted by Gavin, who asks her to explain about ‘IKARUS,’ which he recently learned from Esther, the representative on Earth. Hannah reveals that IKRAUS was her actual mission for which she was sent to the space station—it involved taking the entire algae lab to the Earth and not just samples. The lab can be ejected separately and flown down. Gavin is shocked to learn this and wonders why she did not discuss it earlier. Hannah reveals that while one can board with the lab, it is not really a feasible option. Gavin suggests that they at least try the plan since it involves the lives of three hundred people.
Rubikon (2022) Ending Explained
Why Does Hannah Drop Out of The Mission At The Last Instant?
Hannah begins to ponder over Gavin’s suggestions. She later accuses Dimitri of disconnecting the cooling system. Dimitri mentions that he only did it to save them and Hannah’s unborn baby—and the four of them could make a family here. He further suggests, “There is no shame in caring for your own life.” Dimitri further reveals that Nibra was probably aware of the toxic fog yet did not tell anyone so that only the rich could access the bunkers and the resources.
Later, Gavin and Hannah talk to Esther via the radio system. Hannah demands that she talks to one of the soldiers who had safely brought the rich to the bunker. Esther reveals that the bunker only has the CEOs and their families, implying that the rich did not allow the soldiers inside—having usurped all the space. She further haughtily suggests that it is the duty of the soldiers to bring the rich people to safety. Hannah is angered by her callousness and begins to rethink her decisions to help the rich.
Gavin sympathizes with Hannah yet suggests that they should help them as it also involves the children of the CEOs. Hannah refuses—mentioning that she cannot sacrifice her own child to help the babies of the rich. She further castigates Gavin for his privileged life and tells him that he would never know what it is like to be poor. Gavin is angered and leaves.
Later, Gavin holds Dimitri prisoner and closes the door to operate IKARUS and take the ship down. After operating the machine, Gavin lets Hannah in, and she reluctantly agrees to join him to go to Earth. But just before the shuttle is about to take off, Hannah changes her mind and stops the entire operation by destroying the machine. She reveals to Gavin that she wishes to stay inside the ship and cannot sacrifice her child’s life to help the callous rich.
Gavin is shocked by her choice. Realizing that there is no other option left, he decides to kill himself to leave only two people at the station. Since the algae system cannot function merely with two people—Dimitri and Hannah would be compelled to go to Earth and help the CEOs. When a heartbroken Hannah finds Gavin’s lifeless body, she suggests that she and Dimitri leave. Dimitri reveals that he had lied that the algae system needs three people so that Gavin would not kill himself—the system can also thrive with two people. A grieving Hannah and Dimitri release Gavin’s body into space.
Whose Signal Does Knopf Receive In The End?
After Gavin’s death, the film jumps several years in time. We see that Hannah gave birth to a son, Knopf (named after her sister), and the three of them have managed to live happily in Rubikon. As the film ends, Knopf receives a message from two children from Earth, revealing that they are talking from the Southern camps—hinting that some survivors (including Hannah’s sister) might have made it alive out of the fog. The children ask if Knopf and his family want to come down to Earth as the survivors are looking for more people.
The film’s final shot includes that of the blue Earth—no longer surrounded by the toxic brown fog. With the fog gone and the possibility of survivors on Earth—the film ends on a hopeful note for our protagonist as well as for humanity in general.