Stunning, frightening and mostly plausible

Featuring

Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone
George Clooney as Lt. Matt Kowalskie
Phaldut Sharma as Flight Engineer Shariff Dasari
George Clooney as Lt. Matt Kowalskie
with Ed Harris as Mission Control, Houston

Space: the final frontier. This is the story of George Clooney being a smartarse named Kowalski (because he’s that handsome and ‘cos he can) together with Sandra Bullock as a workaholic hiding from the pain of loss, going somewhere few people have gone before. Actually, Gravity is an awesome movie. There are literally only five characters with spoken lines in the whole thing – seven if you count a screaming baby and howling dog – and the movie is mostly from the point of view of Bullock’s character, Dr Ryan Stone.

The movie starts out with a simple bit of text talking about how it feels to be in the vacuum of space, with no sound and nobody to really help you if something goes wrong. The space shuttle Explorer (not real of course) is up there trying to upgrade the Hubble Space Telescope and the crew is quite easily handling the job. The only problem is, the Russians have decided to blow up one of their own satellites. Normally, this wouldn’t be such a problem, but it appears the missile didn’t exactly hit bang on target, leading to multiple satellites being hit by debris and destroyed. A really bad case of the domino effect, in other words. Of course, the debris comes and hits Explorer, killing most of the crew except for Kowalski and Stone who then embark on a journey to try to get back to Earth safely.

Now, I admit that most of the movie is pretty realistic and it’s this realism that keeps the audience hanging on to their seats. But it’s also clear that some of the events in the movie shouldn’t have happened. At all. Some of them have been alluded to in other critiques, mostly surrounding how Stone and Kowalski reach the International Space Station with what amounts to a weak jetpack. In fact, the big bad cloud of debris that causes the disaster is probably the most unrealistic part of the movie. First, any object that is reduced to smaller pieces by a missile would not be close enough to then knock out dozens of other crucial satellites causing such a large cloud of debris. Nor would every part of the cloud be moving in parallel to each other. They should be scattered and not all at the same orbit height. The other thing is, the debris wouldn’t suddenly move much faster than everything else at the same orbit height. If the debris did gain such a large amount of kinetic energy, the change in speed would likely mean it had escaped the Earth’s gravity or at least changed orbit completely, thereby not becoming a threat.

Now, if we ignore the gross technical inaccuracies in some aspects of the movie, Gravity does get a lot right. There’s no sound in space and the movie does take great pains to ensure that when exposed to a vacuum, the characters don’t hear sound. When you watch the various spacecraft get hit by the debris cloud from outside, there is no noise – which is actually quite a disconcerting experience. Also, the general fallacy of us instantly exploding when exposed to the vacuum of space doesn’t happen, which is great! I even liked the little tribute to 2001: A Space Odyssey. Of course, the space baby wasn’t wearing a tank top and shorts.

All in all, Gravity is a brilliant film to watch purely because of its depiction of planet Earth’s majesty as the action unfolds. It looks calm and peaceful as land masses, oceans, cyclones and even the auroras pass by silently and also, as an engineer, it was great to see the space stations and various spacecraft rendered accurately. The silent vacuum also adds an uneasy feeling of isolation and feeling that Earth is forever with or without you and allows the movie to portray its  tale of survival in a situation that is so alien to us normal landlubbers in such a frightening way.  This film is a great salute to the astronauts, cosmonauts and taikonauts in space because being up there takes a lot of guts and determination. It sounds like a great job and the scenery is brilliant. Go watch Gravity. Luckily for you, if you scream someone in the theatre will hear you.

Rating

Very well made, reasonably realistic movie.

Should I watch this?

There aren’t many characters or indeed much of anything that happens, but it’s still suspenseful and a good watch.

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