starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón
directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Called “Zero Gravity” in Japan, Gravity is one of the few movies I watched in a movie theater in 2013. I watched it in the Milano No. 1 cinema in the red light Kabukicho neighborhood of Shinjuku Ward in central Tokyo. The Milano is my favorite cinema because it is always practically empty. I wonder how it can stay in business? I learned only afterward that the film is offered in two formats: 2D and 3D. Since I wasn’t offered 3D glasses I guess I saw it in 2D. Personally I don’t much fancy 3D movies, although more and more films are made - and older films re-released - in that format.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are not only the movie’s two stars, they are the only actors in the film, although I was very interested to lean in the credits that Ed Harris did the voice of Mission Control. It’s another space movie in addition to his roles in The Right Stuff (1983, directed by Phillip Kaufman) and Apollo 13 (1995, directed by Ron Howard). I like Ed Harris.
Gravity features two astronauts stranded in space after their space shuttle, which they were using to service the Hubble Space Telescope, was destroyed by a cloud of flying debris from a destroyed Russian satellite. Floating free in space after their shuttle is annihilated and with only a jet pack to maneuver the pair set out towards the International Space Station which is faintly visible a hundred miles away. George Clooney doesn’t make it and Sandra Bullock is left alone in space - without a jet pack. The station is abandoned and only one escape pod remains, too damaged to re-enter the earth’s atmosphere but still able to fly in the vacuum of space. Look out! More dangerous debris is coming her way as it completes its own orbit of the earth. The debris is orbiting the earth just like the station. The space station is subsequently destroyed in a smash-up equally as thrilling as the destruction of the shuttle. These are all meticulous CG effects for which Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Webber received high praise.
Try to recall what you learned in high school physics class about mass, inertia and acceleration.
Things look doomed, but the Chinese space station, faintly visible a further hundred miles towards the horizon, offers one last chance to escape to earth. It, too, is abandoned, but its last remaining escape pod is intact. All the controls are in Chinese, but fortunately the capsule is a Soviet Soyuz design on which American astronauts are trained, so she can figure it out. In the nick of time, of course. You see all the opportunities here for nail-biting action and thrills.
With no gravity in space everything not tied down dangerously floats or flies around helter skelter. Without a tether or a rocket the only way to stop once you’re moving is to crash into something else. Of course, without gravity even that doesn’t stop you, it only makes you bounce off in another direction until you meet up with something of even greater mass. And remember that in space everything is orbiting the earth at thousands of miles per hour. Try to recall what you learned in high school physics class about mass, inertia and acceleration. I thought it was an excellent movie.