Gravity is true science fiction
Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Ed Harris. Rated PG.
Stumbling from the screening of Gravity, worn-out but exhilarated, I thought about the new Star Trek movies and how little they actually have to do with space. They are fun flicks, but their themes and spectacles could be readily transposed onto terrestrial boats.
Gravity, on the other hand, shows an event that could only happen in orbit. It is true science fiction, i.e., a fiction rooted in science. It is not about the future, monsters, or aliens. The story is certainly unusual, in that it is still rare for humans to ride rockets, but nothing in it seems impossible.
It is fitting that the main character is played by Sandra Bullock, a major movie star whose gift is to seem basically normal. Her Ryan Stone is a rookie astronaut, queasy and uncomfortable in her environment, but otherwise as impassive as, well, stone.
Stone and mission commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney at his most beatific) are repairing the Hubble telescope when their routine spacewalk is interrupted. A Russian satellite has fragmented, generating a catastrophic hail of debris. Stone and Kowalski are left drifting into the void.
And then things get really bad.
Using long takes, realistic sound design, and masterful special effects, director Alfonso Cuarón makes their harrowing situation palpable. Adding even more tension via Steven Price’s harsh score seems like a needlessly cruel choice.
But I suspect that no choice in Gravity is needless. It is visually spectacular but disciplined in length and scope, staying with our beleaguered heroine through her journey. Cuarón takes us through inner space as much as outer space.