‘I.S.S.’ Ending Explained & Movie Summary: Do Kira And Alexey Survive?

Gabriela Cowperthwaite gained international fame by making documentaries, most notably Blackfish, and since then has gone on to produce and direct feature films as well. Her latest work, I.S.S. is a hotchpotch of other movies with obvious messaging for the viewers. One thing about I.S.S. is that it looks on par with movies such as Gravity, Life, and Sunshine, but the filmmaking is not able to evoke the same kind of horror as the other films did. I.S.S. remains quite subdued most of the time, and perhaps the performances are to blame here for not quite grasping the weight of the moment. Ultimately, Cowperthwaite is the captain of this ship, and it doesn’t sail too far.

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Spoilers Ahead


Plot Synopsis: What Happens In The Film?

The newest member, Kira, a biological engineer, boards the International Space Station (ISS), and the American team is now at par in strength as compared to the Russian team. The other two Americans were Gordon and Christian, while the Russian team had Weronika, Alexey, and Nicholai. Soyuz was the ‘lifeboat,’ the rocket that had brought Kira to the I.S.S., and she was thrilled to be a part of the team, not knowing that a nuclear war had started between America and Russia.

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How Was Everyone Impacted By The War?

Kira had a hard time settling in, as the ways of living in zero gravity were just not that easy to face. One had to acclimatize before the anxiety went away. She had made friends with everyone and noticed that Weronika, aka Nika, liked Gordon, the leader of the American team. She got to see the Earth from above, and while the others had had a spiritual experience of seeing no borders on Earth, she just didn’t get that feeling. But neither was she made uncomfortable by the fact that cosmonauts of other nationalities were present on the I.S.S. It was only later that everybody got in a panic when Kira saw a few spots of bright yellow lights on the surface of the Earth, which increased in number, and soon the Earth had changed from a bluish green to a pale red. Nobody knew what was happening, and all channels to reach Earth were blocked. Christian wanted to get news about her two young daughters, and Gordon was worried about the altitude drop now that the internal propulsion had failed. They had less than a day to fix the problem; otherwise, the atmospheric drag was going to bring the I.S.S. down. Kira was surprised that the I.S.S. had been so dangerously low in altitude, but it was intentionally done to get the supplies faster from the base. Nicholai and Alexey did not show too much emotion, and it had something to do with the message they had received from the Russian base.


How Did Alexey Sever Gordon’s Connection With Kira?

The message that the Russians had received was to get control of the I.S.S. by any means necessary. The Americans were not too far behind, as they managed to get the same message communicated to Gordon. No one actually came forward to discuss the war that had erupted between the two countries. The I.S.S. was a monumental effort for peace and unity around the world, but just one message, and there was mistrust among everybody. Gordon decided to reveal the message to his American team and went out to fix the antenna. Alexey had told him that the antenna needed some fixing, and Gordon couldn’t follow his own advice—not to trust the Russians. Alexey found the wire that was making it possible for Kira to give commands to Gordon while he was on the move to fix the antenna. Once the wire was cut, the connection was severed, and Nicholai managed to operate the station’s giant mechanical arm to hit Gordon and push him out into space. Kira couldn’t hear Gordon communicating that the antenna was fine and Alexey had lied to him, which would have cleared all doubts for Kira about whether or not the Russians knew about the war. Nicholai figured he had managed to strike the first blow and was closer to getting hold of the I.S.S., but there was a problem: Weronika loved Gordon, and she couldn’t swallow the fact that her own team members had killed him, all because of a single message.

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Why Did Kira Trust Alexey?

Nika wanted to maneuver the station so that Gordon could be saved. She believed that he could still be alive, and that they ought to give it a try, but Nicholai and Alexey were rigid in their stance. They suddenly had the mindset of soldiers who were fighting a war. Nicholai had become the most fanatical, it seemed, and Nika would rather help the Americans than work with such a person. It was why she gave Kira the key to Russian cabinet Node 0, where she wanted her to get Alexey’s chemical mixture that he had produced in the lab, which could be used to treat atomic radiation. Nika thought Kira was the newest member to have joined the I.S.S. and also the youngest of the group, and hence deserved to board the Soyuz and get back home. She was the right person to get the chance to do that, according to Nika, at least.

Kira and Christian mistrusted everyone and followed Nika, only to see Nicholai and Alexey trying to dissuade her from blasting the station up using pure oxygen. Christian hit Nika in the head so badly that she had no chance to survive. All Christian had to say in defense was that he was trying to stop the insane Nika from killing them all. Kira trusted Christian, as after Nika left, she had gone to look for Node 0, but according to Christian, there was no such place. Kira thought Nika had lied to her and that she was not to be trusted. Now she was dead, and Christian and Kira were in a lot of trouble. Christian was of the opinion that their best bet was to hide, as Nicholai was coming to kill them and finally take over the I.S.S.

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The twist in the tale came when Alexey saw Gordon hanging on to the station. He was seen floating away into space before, but apparently, he had latched onto the far end of the station, and his suit had eight hours of oxygen to keep him alive. Alexey wasn’t as much of an extremist as Nicholai, which is why he had immense trouble actually severing the wire. He was smart enough to replace it with a dummy wire so that Christian wouldn’t notice, but now that he had seen Gordon again, he didn’t have the heart to go in for the kill one more time. He must have seen it as a chance to do good and correct his wrongdoing. He helped Gordon get into the station, but Nicholai was livid. Gordon just wanted to see Nika, but Nicholai was standing in his way. They both killed each other, leaving just three others in the I.S.S.

The fanatic and the lovers were dead, and it seemed like only the rational ones remained on the ship. Kira finally found Node 0 and went in to tell Christian about it, but saw that he had planted the cure for radiation and a survival suit in the Soyuz. She figured he had lied to her about Nika and Node 0, and his plan was to leave the station in the Soyuz. Now that the secret was out to both sides, it didn’t seem like they would try to kill each other, but fear makes men do stupid things. Christian had frozen the life support on the station, thinking it was the only way he would make himself indispensable. The life support made a humming sound, and Christian was playing music near Alexey to drown that sound out. Kira came in and signaled to Alexey to lower the music and hear the humming. Christian didn’t know that Alexey could fix the life support, and as soon as he was told about this, he tried to kill Alexey. He must have thought that now that he had nothing to offer, Alexey would kill him. It wasn’t certain that he’d go for the kill, but Kira was left with no choice but to stop the immediate threat, which was Christian. Christian was killed, and Alexey and Kira got into the Soyuz to head back to Earth.

During I.S.S.‘s ending, Kira had started to receive communication from Houston, and she was made aware that only the American astronauts were welcome. Alexey had asked her if she knew where she was headed, which implied that the answer might not be as straightforward as  going to the USA. Perhaps she wanted to land on a neutral ground where Alexey wouldn’t automatically be a prisoner of war. This also begs the question of why Alexey was behaving with the utmost naivety, as if he had no say in where they were going. His surrender to Kira’s wishes seemed like a ploy to gain her trust by letting her be in a commanding position. The Soyuz had the cure for radiation, and it was Alexey himself who had made it, and considering the kind of person he was shown to be, he would mind if that did not reach his own country, Russia. So maybe he wanted the gullible Kira to land in a neutral territory, after which he would kill her and try to reach Russia with the cure.


Ayush Awasthi
Ayush Awasthi
Ayush is a perpetual dreamer, constantly dreaming of perfect cinematic shots and hoping he can create one of his own someday.

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