In a decade or so, we’ll probably all be able to jaunt into space on long weekends. In the meantime, there’s Gravity, that serves as both a space tourism guide and a giant, honking cautionary tale against it.
Yes, there’s the incredible beauty: The shimmering stars, the infinite blackness, the eerie and endless silence. And there’s the fun, too: Spacewalking is, like, the coolest thing ever, once you’ve mastered the technique. But there’s also incredible danger: No oxygen or gravity, vulnerable communication with earth, extremes of temperature. Oh, and all that beautiful blackness and silence? It’s also there to remind you that you’re on your own up there, in a place where no man was ever meant to be.
(I’m fine here on the ground, thank you very much.)
An astonishing Sandra Bullock, who continues to amaze me with the depth and range of her work, plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a biomedical engineer sent on her first space shuttle mission. But when a Russian satellite is destroyed, sending dangerous debris hurtling toward them, she and chatty astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney—roguish, charming—giving us the Full Clooney, if you will) are the only ones left alive.
It’s a brilliant stroke to have this be Ryan’s first space mission. It gives her a fragility and a sense that space isn’t her true calling. Although she has trained to be up there, she’s no astronaut—she’s a passenger. She was only given the most rudimentary of training in case everything went wrong. It does.
Director Alfonso Cuarón has created a stunning, unforgettable film—as mesmerizing as it is gripping. The stuff of the film—the shuttles, the satellites, the capsules—are brought to incredibly vivid life. And the 3D is employed to marvelous effect—weightlessness lends itself to flying objects filling up the screen, careening toward us. Both Bullock and Clooney spend much of the film obscured by space suits, but their performances ring through. And when Bullock takes off her suit, revealing a choppy haircut and a rail-thin physique clad in a tank top and leggings, she has the (intentional) look of an alien, or—in one remarkable shot—a fetus. In space, we are reborn as something not entirely ourselves.
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros.