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Idiocy is like Gravity. All it needs is a little push.
A Russian satellite has incurred a missile strike. Who fired the missile? Why? We learn that debris is heading in their direction from satellite destruction, which has started a chain reaction. It's revealed that some Russian morons shot down their own satellite for no reason other than their right of disposal because it was a spy sat that went bad. What do you mean went bad? Somehow they weren't aware of creating a chain reaction of debris or didn't bother to check if there were astronauts operating in the area? Why didn't they go fix it instead of wasting money by destroying it? This contrived setup isn't believable. The debris slams into the satellite and Ryan breaks off. The issue with their interaction is the stark disparity in how they view the situation. On one hand, Ryan is in state of complete shock, but has difficulty executing basic commands like flashing a light and telling Matt what her display readings are. But Matt doesn't appear to be fazed as he resorts to joking about how handsome he is. They're polar opposites. Ryan is completely helpless to the point where she may as well not be an astronaut, while Matt doesn't seem to show any concern: each character is operating on the extreme side of the spectrum.
So the two are on their way to the space station while Matt proceeds to ask Ryan questions about herself even though she only has 2% of her oxygen left. It's not logical. Why didn't he ask these questions sometime during the past week? This is the only time we get any character development in the film. The most important thing we learn about Ryan is that her daughter died from hitting her head at school, and since Ryan was driving in a car when she heard about it, she's been driving ever since.
Ryan and Matt reach the station and try to grab hold of anything while Ryan yells, "what do I do?" like she has no experience instead of doing what Matt instructed her to. Ryan has her foot caught on a thin rope that isn't able to sustain both of them, so Matt sacrifices himself for Ryan. This is probably the best moment of the film in terms of execution, as the dramatic music elevates the intensity of the moment. It's just a shame that I never cared about Clooney's character, and had he been developed more, this scene really could've been emotionally impactful.
Matt's still able to talk to her, and it's revealed that Ryan crashed the flight simulator each time during her training at NASA. Why would they allow her to partake in this mission if she's that incompetent? How was she allowed to pass if she failed a flight test numerous times?
Ryan enters the station and there's the deep "rebirth" metaphor as she goes into a fetal position while some ropes behind her symbolize umbilical cords. The idea of "rebirth" suggests that the character undergoes an immense change and I didn't see that here. We learn about Ryan's daughter dying but the subject is never explored, and her character didn't change to me. She doesn't become more capable or experienced in terms of finding a way of getting back to Earth, and she certainly doesn't seem to encompass a new life perspective. If the narrative had delved into more depth about how much her daughter's death affected her and then displayed her differently, this could've really worked well. I feel as though the daughter shouldn't have died or that it should've been reworked somehow, because then Ryan would have a real reason to return to Earth besides just her basic survival instincts. Ultimately, the entire metaphor fell flat and was unconvincing to me.
Ryan tells everything she's doing to the audience rather than showing it, hence it breaks the traditional principle of showing rather than telling. In the film All is Lost, the protagonist says nothing and the writer trusts the audience to figure it out. The approach used here is lazier by comparison.
The dumbest part of the film then unfolds. George Clooney enters the lifeboat. His light-hearted charm diminishes the emotion that the previous scene had built up as he slugs some Vodka. He says some motivational sentences to Ryan that can be summarized by saying, "get back to Earth," which is what Ryan's been trying to do all along. He doesn't provide any new insight. It turns out that the whole scene was a hallucination/dream sequence. So, not only does this scene not add anything the story, and not only does it act against the mood of the previous scene, but also undermines his dramatic send-off by bringing him back in ghost form for no useful purpose. But hell, given all the nonsense that's already happened, it wouldn't have surprised me at all if he actually had survived somehow and made it into this lifeboat. Ryan talks about her daughter for a little while to dead George Clooney in her mind, and this is emotional, but doesn't build up as much as it should due to the previous scene. I think it would've worked better if that scene had been cut entirely.
Ryan enters another abandoned space station and goes into another shuttle, where she presses buttons at random because she's incapable of properly operating it. Her guesswork must've paid off as the shuttle descends quickly into Earth's atmosphere and finally plunges into a lake in what appears to be the middle of some random jungle in South America. Luckily for Ryan, this spacecraft is somehow able to establish contact with Houston and they inform her that they're issuing a rescue mission for her.
The bottom line is that the film is immensely overrated and logically incoherent in many respects.