Gravity

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

The film is set during fictitious space shuttle mission STS-157. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission aboard the space shuttle Explorer. She is accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who is commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope, Mission Control in Houston warns the team about a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite, which has caused a chain reaction forming a cloud of debris in space. Mission Control orders that the mission be aborted and the shuttle begin re-entry immediately. Communication with Mission Control is lost shortly after.

High-speed debris strikes the Explorer and Hubble, and detaches Stone from the shuttle, leaving her tumbling through space. Kowalski, using a Manned Maneuvering Unit, soon recovers Stone and they make their way back to the Space Shuttle. They discover that it has suffered catastrophic damage and the crew is dead. They use the thruster pack to make their way to the International Space Station (ISS), which is in orbit only about 1,450 km (900 mi) away. Kowalski estimates they have 90 minutes before the debris field completes an orbit and threatens them again.

En route to the ISS, the two discuss Stone’s home life and the death of her young daughter. Her daughter was playing tag and she slipped and hit her head on the concrete causing her early death. As they approach the substantially damaged but still operational ISS, they see its crew has evacuated in one of its two Soyuz modules. The parachute of the remaining Soyuz has deployed, rendering the capsule useless for returning to Earth. Kowalski suggests using it to travel to the nearby Chinese space station Tiangong, 100 km (60 mi) away and board one of its modules to return safely to Earth. Out of air and maneuvering power, the two try to grab onto the ISS as they fly by. Stone’s leg gets entangled in Soyuz’s parachute cords and she grabs a strap on Kowalski’s suit. Despite Stone’s protests, Kowalski detaches himself from the tether to save her from drifting away with him, and she is pulled back towards the ISS while Kowalski floats away.

Stone enters the ISS via an airlock. She cannot re-establish communication with Kowalski and concludes that she is the sole survivor. A fire breaks out, forcing her to hastily make her way to the Soyuz. As she maneuvers the capsule away from the ISS, the tangled parachute tethers prevent the Soyuz from separating from the station. She spacewalks to release the cables, succeeding just as the debris field completes its orbit and destroys the station. Stone aligns the Soyuz with Tiangong but discovers that its engine has no fuel. After a brief radio communication with a fisherman on Earth, Stone resigns herself to being stranded and shuts down the cabin’s oxygen supply to commit suicide. As she begins to lose consciousness, Kowalski enters the capsule. Scolding her for giving up, he tells her to rig the Soyuz’s landing rockets to propel the capsule toward Tiangong. Stone then realizes that Kowalski’s reappearance is not real, but has nonetheless given her the strength of will to carry on. She restores the flow of oxygen and uses the landing rockets to navigate toward Tiangong, which is rapidly deorbiting.

Unable to dock the Soyuz with the station, Stone ejects herself via explosive decompression and uses a fire extinguisher as a makeshift thruster to travel to Tiangong. Stone enters the Shenzhou capsule just as Tiangong starts to break up on the upper edge of the atmosphere. Stone declares that she is ready to head back to Earth, dead or alive. After re-entering the atmosphere, Stone hears Mission Control, which is tracking the capsule, over the radio. The capsule lands in a lake, but dense smoke from an electrical fire inside the capsule forces Stone to evacuate immediately. She opens the capsule hatch, allowing water to enter and sink it, forcing Stone to swim ashore. She watches the remains of the Tiangong re-enter the atmosphere and takes her first shaky steps on land, in the full gravity of Earth.

REVIEW:

One of the best reviewed and lauded film of 2013 was Gravity. A very minimalist film, if you’ve ever seen one, there have been comparisons to another small space film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, except this one isn’t as long and boring…or is it?

What is this about?

As a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission embarks on a space walk with a seasoned astronaut, debris strikes their craft and destroys it — leaving the two floating through space tethered together, with no connection to Earth.

What did I like?

Rubbernecking. Watching everything that happens to Sandra Bullock in this film is like seeing a car wreck on the interstate. It is something that will catch your eye, even if you know that had this been a real situation you should look away. I was fascinated with how well the film was able to convey the sense of dread Bullock’s character had to be facing as things were becoming more and more bleak out in the nothingness of space.

Visuals. Saying this picture has stunning visuals would be an understatement, as the visual effects take the audience and transport them into space with Bullock and Clooney. Switching the camera to the occasional first person viewpoint didn’t hurt, either. Words can’t describe how much the visuals sell this film. Had they not been as great and impressive, I don’t think this would have been as well-received by audiences. I wonder what this would have looked like in 3D. It may be the first film to actually have been worth the extra ticket price, unlike almost every single other 3D release.

Going solo. When you are the only person in a powerful and/or pivotal scene, it is hard enough on the nerves to give a strong performance, but when  you are the only person on screen for more than half of the film, it is really difficult, I can imagine. That being said, Sandra Bullock holds her own and turns in a strong performance that will leave the audience with no doubt in their minds as to why she was nominated for Best Actress.

What didn’t I like?

Pacing. This is a tricky topic, because the pacing isn’t necessarily slow, especially for a film this short, but there is something that felt a little uneven to me. Perhaps it was the way the film kept rotating around, or the attempts at comedy that were present when Clooney was on screen, or maybe it was something else, but whatever it was that I can’t quite put my finger on, it needed to be fixed.

Body of work. This is actually a small complaint, but why was Sandra Bullock wearing such short, tight shorts? Don’t get me wrong, she has an amazing figure and all, but to put her in such attire seemed to distract. I bring this up because these same shorts are featured on an alternate poster, so it was obviously meant for them to capitalize on Bullock’s sex appeal. For me, this is not the film to be doing such. Maybe she should have switched these shorts with those Spanx she was wearing in The Heat.

Murphy’s Law. It would seem that the events occurring in this film follow Murphy’s Law, “whatever can go wrong, will go wrong!” For the purposes of this flick, it works, but I couldn’t help but think to myself, can she catch a break? It seems that everytime she was able to catch her breath, something else happened and put her into even more danger, making for a bleak film. I guess I just would have liked for there to have not been such an impending sense of doom the entire time. A glimmer of hope and then impending doom would have worked nicely.

Surprisingly, Gravity lived up to the hype and accolades everyone was throwing at it. Then again, when you have a sci-film that could very well happen (or have happened), critics tend to like those better than the fantastical type that the general public seems to prefer. That being said, I believe this is a film that is best seen in a 3D format, or as close to one as possible. Do I recommend it? Yes, but be warned, this isn’t some action packed space opera, but rather a character thriller that takes place in space. Give it a shot as soon as you can!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

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