(Treatment is screenwriter speak for synopsis. It doesn’t even get into some of the subplots I have)
Written by: Halley Reed
Logline: In the Soviet Union in 1964, a talented young pilot who has been recruited into a mysterious branch of the space program struggles to maintain his life while having an affair with a widow and figure out the strange disappearances of his fellow recruits.
In 1964, The Soviet Union was still firmly ahead in the Space Race, having just been the first to launch two space missions at the same time and send a woman into space. However, with the creation of the Gemini Program, the US began making fast strides to catch up, so a new program had to be created.
Valentin Malenkov, 26, was a talented fighter pilot set to join the program with his best friend, Sasha, when Sasha was killed in a mysterious training crash. At his funeral, Valentin tries to comfort Sasha’s wife, Yuliya, when she tells him that she believes that Sasha was murdered. Believing Yuliya to be in denial, Valentin brushes these assertions aside and returns home to prepare to move to Star City with his wife, Filippa. At home, Filippa makes a pot of soup for Yuliya and sends Valentin to deliver it to her. Valentin is reluctant to take it, remembering Yuliya’s assertions at the funeral and a past Christmas party during which they’d kissed, but he can’t refuse his wife. At her apartment, Yuliya still insists that Sasha’s death wasn’t an accident, and she plies Valentin with vodka until they sleep together.
The next day, Valentin and Filippa move to Star City. Valentin hopes to put Yuliya behind him. He meets Aleksey Bayev, who has already been training for several months, and Dima Olitsky, a new recruit who is following in the footsteps of his idol, Yuri Gagarin. On the first day of training, Valentin meets the charismatic program director, Mstislav Kosarev, who tells him and his fellow recruits that they are the future of communism and humanity. Afterwards, Valentin attends a party to get to know his fellow recruits. Much to his dismay, Yuliya is there, and it won’t be as easy to push her out of his life as he’d hoped.
Valentin takes well to training, earning top marks and impressing Kosarev. He makes friends with the recruits, becoming especially good friends with Dima. He comes under the watchful eye of Antonin Grabischenko, a KGB officer who has been assigned to watch over the new space program. Valentin is surprised to learn that he was friends with Sasha.
As training goes on, it begins to look like one of the older recruits will soon be chosen for a mission. Aleksey disappears, and his family is moved from Star City without a word. The others assume his mission must have been top-secret, so they forget about it. Valentin is left unsettled, remembering Sasha’s death. He continues his affair with Yuliya, who has taken it upon herself to solve the mystery of Sasha’s death. She has friends who work as secretaries within the KGB and know how to get to his records. She may have to sleep with some men to get answers, but she’s willing to do it.
The program moves forward, as one by one more and more trainees disappear to never be heard from. Kosarev gives them all strict instructions to not question the program and to not discuss it among themselves. Fighting breaks out among the “true believers” and those who doubt the merits of the program. Valentin has his doubts, but he keeps his head low and continues to impress with his skills.
One evening Yuliya invites Valentin to her apartment. She has gotten hold of Sasha’s file and is unable to look at it by herself. Valentin looks at it, reading each page carefully, and sees nothing but a common accident report. There is nothing out of place or suspicious. Yuliya still refuses to believe that it was an accident.
At home, Filippa is beginning to wise up to Valentin’s affair. When she asks him, he lies to her and says there’s nothing in between him and Yuliya, and even though Valentin is sure she doesn’t believe him, Filippa accepts his excuses and doesn’t question him. Conditions among the recruits reach their worst when Lidiya Ippolitova, the pretty female recruit that Dima has fallen in love with, disappears. Dima is heart-broken and it shows in his training. Valentin tries his best to console Dima, but it is to no avail, and soon, Dima disappears, as well.
Valentin expects to be chosen for a mission sometime soon, but instead, he is arrested. He is told that Yuliya was caught trying to infiltrate KGB headquarters and was killed trying to escape. Grabischenko, knowing of Valentin’s relationship with Yuliya, had him arrested. After being interrogated, he is brought into another room where he is shocked to find Kosarev. Kosarev drives him back to Star City without speaking, but does not drop him off at his home. He takes him into a small room in the training facility, where he is shown the nature of his mission: he will be trying to make an orbit around the moon. Already, Lidiya and Dima have been sent to try to accomplish this, but both were lost in the attempts. Lidiya died peacefully after swallowing a suicide pill, but Dima refused, even after being personally asked by his idol, Gagarin, and he suffocated when his oxygen ran out. Despite the grim outlook, Kosarev assures Valentin that the program has had success in the past, and that he might still have a successful mission. When Valentin is granted one last chance to go home to say goodbye to Filippa, she is waiting for him. She wishes him luck but if he should make it back to earth, she won’t be there waiting for him.
Valentin is taken out to be launched from Baikonur. On the way there, he contemplates his fate. When he is finally strapped into a rocket and prepared for launch, he is prepared for whatever is waiting for him.