Saturday, October 5, 2013

Movie Review: Gravity

There are no spoilers in this review.

With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, plus phenominal special effects, 'Gravity' was going to be great. The deeply moving broad views of earth and stars plus the detailed and profound set dressing of the space crafts would make space travel reality for us. But the writing was exceptional and took me by surprise.

Americans have space travel in their psyche. John F. Kennedy delivered an eloquent, vital speech in 1962, which is often included on California standardized tests for high school graduation (CAHSEE.) You can see it and hear it here:

John F. Kennedy

Address at Rice University on the Nation's Space Program

delivered 12 September 1962, Rice Stadium, Houston, Texas

Inspirational? Of course. But JFK compared the struggle of the pioneers, which included great danger and casualties, with the struggle to tame the new frontier of space. No one in NASA or elsewhere was naive enough to think the Space Program would be all success. 

'Gravity' is probably very realistic (I don't know the stats of possible disasters in space.) But Bullock and Clooney give us true people doing their job, expecting the probable when the worst case scenario occurs. Matt Kowalski (Clooney's character) responds with perfect professionalism matching his experience. He follows protocol--but with a heart. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock's character) is taken by surprise but digs down and references her insufficient training in the astronaut program. She is a biomedical engineer in space to adjust the Hubble satellite.

The plot matches any action/adventure, but the characters rival any great drama.

George Clooney's Kowalski has the flavor of  'The Right Stuff,' which is a great movie to view along with this one. 

The Right Stuff Theatrical Trailer
The Right Stuff

The reactions of Kowalski and Stone--engineering expertise and guts-- reminded me of 'Apollo 13,' a film which dramatized the actual near fatal flight of  Jim Lovell's spacecraft in 1970. Tom Hanks played Lovell. I'm sure in 'Gravity' Kowalsi would have sarcastically quoted those famous words, "Houston, we have a problem," if Houston could hear. This is another good film to supplement 'Gravity' with--

Apollo 13 Trailer 

Apollo 13

The writers of 'Gravity' use sparse words to expose the characters. We suddenly feel for them; care what happens because they become people to us. The writers gave Clooney and Bullock a great gift, and they gave us a great gift. 

The action elevates and there is a scene that reminded me of information I've read about the Challenger disaster. There were several seconds before the explosion and the disintegration of the spacecraft in the Atlantic. What would you be thinking? There are several profound moments that Sandra Bullock takes Ryan Stone to the heights of Shakespearean monologue in 'Gravity.' I had read before seeing this film to 'try not to scream'  as you watch this film, but it actually brought tears to my eyes, and I'm not that emotional at movies.

Columbia crew 2003.

The film doesn't directly implicate any themes--but sacrifice, human resilience, and the meaning of life resonate with me. Given the track record of the Space Program in heroic determination despite losses, I would say 'Gravity' is a salute to those who did give their lives to pursue the next frontier. We have records of  lost American Astronauts, and  probably not too accurate accounting for Russian
Challenger crew 1983.
Cosmonauts or Chinese Taikonauts. This movie gives us a close up and personal view of  our 'star sailors', as well as the Russian 'universe sailors' and Chinese 'space traveling personnel.'





  1. "Gravity", a beautiful dance in space that is the closest replica anyone could ever ask for. Easily my favorite film of 2013.