There is no shortage of movies centered around a plot that involves that final frontier. From fictional movies, such as Star Trek and Star Wars, to those inspired by real events, such as Apollo 13, Space has captured and encouraged the imagination. The opportunities presented by the wonders of space offer a whole realm of possibilities, endless amounts of which have yet to be explored.
Gravity offers viewers an answer to one such possibility. The cast consists of only seven members with four of those merely providing voices while one of the three left is present in only a small part toward the beginning. Despite it’s lack of actors, however, ‘Gravity’ does not lack in entertainment.
Viewers are originally greeted with an exquisite view of the Earth as one might see it if in orbit around the planet. At first, all is silent, but slowly voices cut through the stillness and gradually increase in volume. The audience discovers that a small team of astronauts are attempting to perform a specific mission involving technology developed by Dr. Ryan Stone. She’s trained as a mission specialist and it’s her first time in space – a fact augmented by the green around the gills reactions to certain movements as a result of the lack of gravity. She is accompanied by two other astronauts, one of whom is Matt Kowalski, commander of the mission – the final one of his career.
During the installation process, the Russians decide to get rid of a defunct satellite by firing a missile at it. Unfortunately, doing so causes debris to launch into orbit around the Earth – and head right for the astronauts. The debris collides with the Explorer and Stone is flung out into space. Kowalski races after and retrieves her. With the rest of the crew dead and the Explorer rendered useless, the two have to trek across miles of space to the International Space Station – their only hope to return to Earth. They must do this while avoiding the debris which is moving so quickly that it orbits the earth every 90 minutes.
The rest of the film documents their struggles, particularly that of Dr. Stone. We find out she had a daughter who died as a result of a head injury sustained after a fall. In a sense, it is this that drives most of the plot. Stone reveals that she was driving when she was told of her daughter’s death. In some ways, she hasn’t stopped driving since. She’s always moving, always on the go – as if trying to run away from the past, or perhaps somehow find it again, the way it was when things were still good.
Two ‘big names’ of the film industry shine on the screen. George Clooney is amusing as a charismatic Matt Kowalski while Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone is superbly depicted as a woman still in mourning and unable to let go. Both actors have been applauded for their talent and they do not pull punches. Kowalski’s charm causes one to chuckle, while Stone’s pain is enough to bring tears to one’s eye.
There are some issues with the film that some may find difficult to ignore. A trek from the position of the shuttle to the International Space Station would be nigh impossible in real life. At one point, when Ryan slips out of her space suit, she’s clad in only underwear and an undershirt. Astronauts will be quick to tell that thermals are worn, not underwear (though some also admitted they didn’t really mind). The International Space Station, Chinese Station, and Hubble Telescope would not be in sight of each other in reality. In addition, the debris orbited East to West, though most satellites orbit West to East.
Despite these inaccuracies, however, Gravity is realistic enough to set one’s heart racing as the astronauts face incredible difficulties and have to make heart wrenching decisions. The special effects, while not perfect (Bullock’s hair doesn’t quite float in zero gravity as it would if in reality), are extremely well done. The sequence where Stone finds herself spinning head over heels is stomach turning at best, but allows the audience to get a realistic sense of what is happening. With its well executed special effects and exceptional acting, Gravity is a film that shouldn’t be missed and deserves to be recognised come award time.