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
Because there is no up or down in space, the opening 12 minute scene was originally rotated 180 degrees but an off-the-cuff decision to play it back upside-down was made and Alfonso Cuarón liked it so much, he decided to keep it upside-down in the official cut. See more »
Houston tells the astronauts that debris from a Russian missile strike on one of their satellites has caused a chain reaction, destroying other satellites, and a huge debris field is heading toward them at high speed. NASA: "Multiple satellites are down and they keep on falling." Kowalski: "Define multiple satellites." NASA: "Most of them are gone. Telecommunications systems are dead." There are a great many problems with this, made all the more important because point is so central to the plot. Communications satellites aren't in low-Earth-orbit ("LEO") like the Shuttle & Hubble Space Telescope. LEOs are at an altitude of roughly 200 miles, whereas communications satellite are in geosynchronous orbits (so-called "Clarke Orbits" in honor of SF author Arthur C. Clarke who first proposed them) about 22,240 miles above the Earth's surface. It is virtually impossible for a non-nuclear explosion to send debris 22,000 miles up even in airless space, never mind put pieces on an intersecting path with satellites that travel above the equator. Secondly, NASA didn't always use communications satellites to reach the Shuttle. If the Shuttle was above America NASA could use microwave, telephone and other methods to send voice to the appropriate ground station, which would then beam the signal directly to the Shuttle (and vice versa). Ground stations in Europe could be reached by NASA via the telephone & data trunk lines under the Atlantic Ocean. In the worst case Ham Radio could even be used to communicate between NASA and the various ground stations. Even if none of this was possible ground stations are manned by communications people during Shuttle flights, and they could have talked directly with the Shuttle even if they had trouble reaching NASA immediately.
However, the array of TRDS comsats, used to free the shuttle from constantly having to be in sight of a ground station, are in LEO to reduce the signal power needed to transmit to them. In fact, it is because they are in LEO that there have to be so many of them, instead of just three. 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 drinks.
[...] See more »
There are no opening credits, with the exception of the movie's title, which also appears at the start of the closing credits, and again halfway through the closing credits 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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