Gravity’s tagline was “Don’t let go”. I propose an alternative: “Think you’re having a bad day?”
To describe Gravity as atmospheric would be incorrect on two counts: first literally (as there’s no atmosphere in space, which is one of the reasons this is such a frightening movie), and second, because it’s not really something that’s plodding yet interesting. I would call Alex Proyas’s “Dark City” atmospheric; I’d call the Maltese Falcon Atmospheric. I wouldn’t call Gravity anything other than an amazingly well-constructed, executed and acted thrill ride that refreshes the Science Fiction genre and sets a new bar for excellence.
Short version: Gravity is simply a fast-paced survival tale which some have compared in sections to Wall-E (for a rather clever use of a fire-extinguisher), and 2001: a space odyssey (for the “rebirth” sequence at the end).
Long version: I want to see it again. I want the DVD and all the extras. This was an astonishing ride, with believable characterisations, serious thrills and no freaking “Big Bad Space Nazi Threat To Be Overcome By A Plucky Band Of Smartarses”. I’m so completely sick to death of Alien Threat movies which are basically absolute good versus absolute evil wrapped up in a zap-gun and starfield wrapping I think I’ll scream. Therefore Gravity came as a breath of fresh air in the stagnant room that is Science-Fiction movies of the past 20 years.
The movie concerns a space shot with three characters: Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone, George Clooney’s Matt Kowalski and Paul Sharma’s Engineer Shariff (whose story doesn’t end well). After the Russians (who else – this did feel a bit old-school) blow-up a rogue rocket, there is a catastrophic cascade of metal from the explosion shredding satellites and more satellites. The shuttle Stone and Kawalski are working on is hit and Stone is hurled into orbit without any hope of rescue. What then occurs is rescue, catastrophe, loss, a little pause to catch breath, and then more cascading things going wrong. It’s touch-and-go whether or not anyone is going to survive and I counted at least 5 points where the movie could have ended without anyone walking off into the sunset.
The issue of fragments of satellites causing others to be shredded is a real one; the Kessler syndrome (also known as the Kessler effect or ablation cascade) was suggested as long ago as 1978. In order to remain in orbit rather than falling back down to terra-firma, orbiting satellites must move pretty fast. So if one is hit by debris, then there’s the potential for the fragments to scatter and hit other satellites until there’s a lot of fast-moving sharp pointy objects hurtling around destroying anything in their path.
This is the cause of the seemingly endless catastrophes facing Ryan Stone as she pulls out every trick in the book to survive; seriously, Indiana Jones and Ellen Ripley would be proud of what Stone achieves.
If you haven’t seen Gravity yet, find a session time and get yourself there; it’s worth the price of admission. For my part, I seriously hope it becomes the biggest movie of all time and wins a bazillion awards. It really deserves it.
Rating: Off the scale/5