The Spacewalker (2017)


Introduction

The Age of Pioneers (Russian: Время первых, romanized: Vremya Pervykh, lit. “Time of the first ones”), also known as Spacewalk or The Spacewalker, is a Russian historical drama film about cosmonaut Alexei Leonov, the first human to perform a spacewalk.

Leonov himself served as a consultant for the film.

Outline

The film is set in the 1960s, during the Cold War and the Space Race between USSR and the United States. The Soviets plan to send a man into space. During the construction of the craft, a technician is killed and the engineers question the safety of the craft. A test vehicle, representing the Voskhod 2 spacecraft, breaks up in flight two weeks before the official launch and Soviet engineers cannot identify the causes of the explosion and sudden loss of communication. Ex-WW2 pilot, Pavel Belyayev, and military test pilot Alexei Leonov are called to man the craft, but during a skydive Pavel injuries his leg landing and is considered unfit. He is replaced by a new, young, and inexperienced cosmonaut (Yevgeny Khrunov), much to the Alexei’s dismay. Fuelled by anger and determination, Pavel recovers through training and eventually is re-admitted, delighting Alexei.

The Voskhod 2 launches, and Alexei makes a spacewalk. It is initially successful and the country celebrates, but Alexei’s suit overinflates, rendering him clumsy and unable to enter the airlock. The ship loses communication with ground control when it enters a dead zone. Alexei defies standing procedure and enters the airlock head first but the outer hatch fails to fully close automatically. He semi deflates his suit and turns within the airlock in order to close the hatch but, as a result, his oxygen runs out and he passes out. Pavel drags him into the pod and succeeds in reviving him. The two are instructed to orbit for 22 hours until Cycle 4 when an automatic system will land them. Pavel detaches the craft from the airlock, causing the Voskhod 2 to spin. Before Cycle 4, Pavel and Alexei feel queasy and find that the oxygen pressure is rising dangerously. Ground control states that the system detected a minor leak and began pumping pure oxygen in response. They are told to find and disconnect a yellow wire in the ceiling to disable it.

Pavel passes out from oxygen toxicity, and Alexei takes control, reaching for the wire. The oxygen causes Alexei to hallucinate about his times as a young boy, running in a field, searching for a bird nest. He manages to twist the wire but passes out before it is disconnected. During his hallucination, he remembers reaching out to the bird who injured him, which causes him to flinch and disconnect the wire.

The cosmonauts awake to find that Cycle 4 failed to run on schedule and ground control conclude that the spin of the craft may be to blame. The cosmonauts are permitted to use manual mode to re-direct the ship in order to ensure that it lands within the Soviet Union. After Pavel stabilises the craft, it re-enters the atmosphere and lands in the Ural mountains, far from the expected landing site. Planes are despatched to find them, but their radio signals are not picked up. A radio fan on Sakhalin picks up their signals and eventually notifies the Space Agency of their approximate position. A nearby rescue helicopter is ordered to search for them but cannot find them. The helicopter, running out of fuel, is recalled but, with the cosmonauts close to death, the crew spot Alexei’s flare.

The cosmonauts arrive by plane at the Agency to meet with their wives and children. Later they parade through Moscow where huge crowds cheer them.

Cast

  • Yevgeny Mironov as Alexei Leonov (the cosmonaut).
  • Konstantin Khabensky as Pavel Belyayev (the commander of the ship).
  • Vladimir Ilyin as Sergei Korolev (general designer).
  • Anatoly Kotenyov as Nikolai Kamanin (Lieutenant General).
  • Alexandra Ursulyak as Svetlana Leonova.
  • Yelena Panova as Tatiana Belyayeva.
  • Alexey Morozov as Gherman Titov (the cosmonaut).
  • Yury Itskov as Boris Chertok (designer).
  • Vladimir Malyugin as Valery Bykovsky (cosmonaut).
  • Alexander Novin as Yevgeny Khrunov (cosmonaut).
  • Yuri Nifontov as Boris Rauschenbach (mechanical physicist).
  • Aleksandr Ilyin as Vladimir Markelov (helicopter pilot).

Production

Initially it was planned that the director of the film would be Sergei Bodrov and that the film will be released in the spring of 2016.

In 2015, the project received financial assistance from the Cinema Foundation of Russia on a non-returnable and refundable basis, Alfa-Bank also provided financial assistance. Filming took place in two stages: from 01 July, they filmed in pavilions and the summer outdoor scenery, in November – shooting of space and landing of cosmonauts in the taiga.

Two-thirds of the film were directed by Yuri Bykov, but he was fired from the project by producers Timur Bekmambetov and Yevgeny Mironov. After this, Dmitry Kiselev continued work on the film. Alexei Leonov himself became consultant of the picture.

Visual effects were made by CGF, Russia’s largest visual effects studio. CGF worked on more than 1,200 computer graphics shots of varying complexity.

Principal photography finished at the end of 2016.

Release

Box Office

The Age of Pioneers grossed RUB 145 million in its first weekend, below early expectations. It was attributed to unsuccessful marketing campaign. However, movie’s second weekend drop was very small – less than 15%, as it grossed additional RUB 124 million due to good word of mouth. By the end of its theatrical run, The Age of Pioneers grossed in Russia RUB 561 million against a 400 million budget, which is below the two-budget watershed required for a movie to break even or generate profit.

The movie received critical acclaim in Russian media.

Trivia

  • The helicopters searching for the crew in the Taiga are Mi-17s; with the maiden flight of the Mi-17 taking place in 1975 and the film set in the 1960s.

Production & Filming Details

  • Director(s): Dmitriy Kiselev.
  • Producer(s): Timur Bekmambetov, Yevgeny Mironov, and Sergey Ageyev.
  • Writer(s): Yury Korotkov, Sergey Kaluzhanov, and Irina Pivovarova.
  • Music: Yury Poteenko.
  • Cinematography: Vladimir Bashta.
  • Editor(s): Anton Anisimov, Nikolai Bulygin, and Andrey Shugaev.
  • Production: Bazelevs Productions and ROME No.3 STUDIO.
  • Distributor(s):
    • Blue Swan Entertainment (2018) (Italy) (all media).
    • GEM Entertainment (2017) (Non-US) (all media) (multi-territory).
    • AB Vidéo (2018) (France) (DVD).
    • Bazelevs Distribution (2017) (Russia) (all media).
    • Capelight Pictures (2017) (Germany) (Blu-ray).
    • Capelight Pictures (2017) (Germany) (DVD).
    • Lumix Media (2017) (South Korea) (all media).
    • MPI Media Group (2021) (USA) (all media) (Digital, DVD & Blu-ray).
    • Red Apollo Group (2017) (China) (all media).
  • Release Date: 06 April 2017 (Russia) and 09 April 2017 (UK).
  • Running Time: 137 minutes.
  • Rating: 12A.
  • Country: Russia.
  • Language: Russian.

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