Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (Clooney). She has had the minimum requisite training to have bee n sent out into space, and (on some level) is still getting her space legs. Then, on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. Debris from an aging satellite that the Russians destroy with a missile wind up spreading out and causing a spreading shrapnel storm that begins circling the globe and posing a threat to the Shuttle. The astronauts attempt to detach from the Hubble telescope on which they are working and return to the shuttle, but they get caught in the storm of fragments and the shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone.
Stone, who was tethered to the shuttle without a jetpack, gets thrown into the void, spinning in the nothingness of space and freaking out that she is lost. Kowalsky (who has a jet pack), actually manages to locate and catch up to her and then begins a rescue attempt. Now, tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness they try to make their way to the International Space Station before the debris from the destroyed satellite returns for an encore performance. Unfortunately, the debris has also struck other satellites, and now they have also lost any link to Earth...as well as any chance for a rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
This is a terrifying film concept, similar on some level to Open Water (a film based on the true story of a pair scuba divers who were accidentally stranded in shark infested waters after their tour boat has left), only instead of the open sea, they are adrift from the very Earth itself. The twisting, spinning motion of the camera throughout the length of the film as well as the magnificent vistas of both Earth and space truly set this film in a class of filmmaking all of itself. Cutting between those wide, expansive shots (couples with the sheer terror of projectiles coming straight toward s you), and the close, cramped, confined angels of the astronauts in the various space craft that they occupy, give this film a unique feel.
Under the guidance of the veteran astronaut, Kowalsky, the pair traverses space first from the Shuttle and Hubble, to the ISS, then to a Chinese craft that is also in orbit around Earth. As their fuel and oxygen run out, and the swarm of debris continue to hurtle around the globe, the tension, fear and panic continue to intensify throughout the film.
This is a very amazing film, and one well worth watching, still, we would be remiss if we didn’t mention the following, American astrophysicist and Director of the Hayden Planetarium, Neil deGrasse Tyson had some hilariously entertaining things to say about the film (which he did admit to liking), but he took exception to several of the film’s plot points. We suggest that you first go see the film, then come back here to find out what deGrasse Tyson tweeted.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.