A young man who survives a disaster at sea is hurtled into an epic journey of adventure and discovery. While cast away, he forms an unexpected connection with another survivor: a fearsome Bengal tiger.
Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone - tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness. Written by
Alfonso Cuarón: [Use of long continuous and digitally blended shots] The opening scene and many others as well. See more »
The whole premise of the communication blackout is very dubious. The vast majority of communication satellites are in higher orbits than would have been affected by the debris cloud created by the Russians. See more »
Please verify that the P1 ATA removal on replacement cap part 1 and 2 are complete.
DMA, M1, M2, M3 and M4 are complete.
Okay. Copy that, Explorer. Dr. Stone, Houston. Medical is concerned about your ECG readings.
I'm fine, Houston.
Well, medical doesn't agree, Doc. Are you feeling nauseous?
Not anymore than usual, Houston. Diagnostics are green. Link to communications card ready for data reception. If this works, when we touch down tomorrow, I'm buying all you guys a round of ...
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The credits end with the sound of a radio transmission and a man counting down: "Three, two, one, mark." See more »
A stellar space film that is literally about space and vertigo and survival--fiction, but not science fiction
A ridiculously visual movie. The photography is astonishing. Astonishing. Add to that a story that never relents with suspense and emotional intensity and you have a remarkable movie.
The idea of being under constant stress, worrying for your main characters, should not be new if you know the director Alfonso Cuaron's previous major film, "Children without Men." And like that film, he works with his same cameraman, Emmanuel Lubezki, who has become a co-conspirator in his films. That's a good thing. This movie is a visual stunner. Yes, it has a lot of "effects" if you can call them that, but that have such visual coherence they remain logical and reasonable, even as they tip into the fabulous. It's an achievement.
Sandra Bullock is the main character here, even more than her co-lead George Clooney. And she's pretty amazing. You might think she doesn't get much room to stretch her abilities, trapped in space the whole time, but this is exactly where it shows how good she is. Even when she's talking to herself she makes it real, and moving, not a canned or cheesy sentimental or filler kind of moment. Clooney is also strong, playing the more experienced astronaut to a T, including his enduring calm in crisis.
Once you are done watching and leave the theater (or stand up from your couch) you might actually feel disoriented. Certainly in 3-D (and I saw it in the IMAX version) the effects are visceral. But looking back in the light of day you might also ask what the movie was about. Or rather, if it was about anything more than the one, relentless trajectory of surviving a series of near-death mishaps.
The answer is no. And that's a strength. It's definitely good that the writers (including the director) did not push the sentimentality too hard (there's a little). And there is no great sense of finding God or discovering your inner self. No, this is a survival film as gripping and down to earth (haha) as the vivid "Grey." No distractions here.
Except the visuals. Even in 2-D this must be something to marvel at. The 3-D was really really good, and this might seem odd to say given the theatrical mechanics of the camera and exploding spacecraft, but it's also really subtle. There are few moments (memorable ones, like Bullock's tears) where the dimensional aspects come forward. But the film basically uses the 3-D effects to enhance what is already there, nothing more. This of course, enhances a lot, but in respect to the story.
The photography is remarkable for the long takes at work, including the almost laugh- out-loud spectacular first long scene where Bullock and Clooney are doing spacewalks. The intelligence of how the camera pulls you into the scenes, with fluidity and without breaks (no edits, no cuts), is both beautiful and effective. There are even moments that are so virtuosic you wonder how they even thought they could do it, let alone then do and succeed.
The best example for me was watching Bullock spinning against the fixed starry sky, then the camera pulls closer and seamlessly starts to spin until the spinning becomes the same as Bullock's. The camera continues its approach, getting in on her helmet with reflections, and her face, and then finally her eye (yes that close), and with an incredibly deft wide angle swing we are in her head, looking out at the spinning universe, listening to her panic. Then the camera reverses and undoes all of this, step by fluid step. It takes a really long time, it happens without a single break (which means you are given no emotional escape), and it's both gorgeous and taut with terror.
There have been some questions raised about the feasibility of the various events--the different orbits of the real shuttle and space station, or the high speed of the spacewalker in a jetpack, or getting a visual on a space station 100 miles away--but you have to just let all that go. It doesn't really matter. It's not about likelihood on any level. And the movie is so accurate in so many ways it will seem very conceivable.
It's hard to imagine not liking this movie on one level or another. No, it isn't crazily imaginative like a Tarantino or Coen film, and it doesn't work its way into social or psychological significance, but what it deliberately does focus on is flawless.
a postscript: be sure to see the Cuaron directed parallel short film "Aningaaq" which is recently posted all over. Google it.
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