Got this one out in record time.
It’s 1957 in the USSR and Sergei wakes up a minute before his alarm goes off. He gets ready for the day. The camera is focused on his face as he moves about and a sad song is playing in the background (think of the beginning of BoJack). We see his wife Xenia in the background trying to calm down their two children. Sergei barely has any emotions. He gets to work and he sits down behind his desk, exhales and smiles.
There are blueprints and rocket models all over his desk. He has a large office. One of his coworkers knocks on his door. Sergei greets him warmly. The coworker (Georgi) has a grave look on his face and says he has been hearing some scary rumors about a change of priorities from the higher ups. Sergei tells him not to worry, that everything is on schedule and he is sure everything will be fine.
Sergei continues his work day. He meets with rocket engineers and scientists who are working on equipment to measure the ionosphere. During lunch he sits at the head of a table and holds court.
The next day is not a work day. The family throws a dinner party. Sergei looks sullen the whole time. Someone asks him about his work and he immediately gets enthusiastic. He says it’s all secret but they are really going to change the world. We can tell it’s taking a lot of self control for him not to say more. Someone asks him about politics and he shuts down again.
When he goes back to work he finds out he has to travel to the Council of Ministers for a meeting. At the meeting the Council says there has been a change in priority. This is not longer a mission about scientific research, it’s about beating the Americans to space. As such, the probe that will be sent up won’t have any equipment to measure anything, it will just have a radio transmitter so that it can be tracked.
Sergei is gutted. He calls an all hands meeting when he gets back to work. He almost cries as he explains the change of plans. Other scientists do cry when they realize all their work was for nothing.
After a few days of moping Georgi makes him go out for drinks. After their third vodka Sergei starts to vent about how this project was the only good thing in his life and now it’s ruined. They ripped the souls out of it. Georgi says that his expectations are all out of wack. You can’t plan for everything, and if things don’t go according to plan that doesn’t mean it’s a failure, it just means it’s different. He has a great life and they are still making something cool. He needs to count his blessings.
It’s the launch of Sputnik. The rocket takes off and everyone is super focused until it is clear the probe made it safely into space. There is a giant cheer. They start passing around vodka to celebrate. Sergei gets up to leave but Georgi stops him. He says they aren’t out of the woods yet and what if something goes wrong. Sergei says it’s already a success and he has something he has to do.
As he drives through town everyone is frozen in front of televisions in shop windows watching coverage of the launch. He continues home and takes out some radio equipment from his trunk. He calls for his children as he begins assembling the contraption. He points an antenna to the sky and puts on headphones. He smiles and then puts the headphones on each child. He talks to them about how their father helped put the first man made satellite in space and that’s what they are hearing. He continues to speak eloquently about what went into the project and how momentous it is. He wife looks on smiling.
The family walks back inside in slow motion with the same song from the beginning of the movie playing in the background, but this time it’s uptempo. The camera pans up to the sky and we fade out.