There are certain films that come to mind if you are a fan of science fiction and, in particular, space movies. For example, there is the original sci-fi movie A Trip to the Moon by early film pioneer George Melies. Then there is Metropolis, or Forbidden Planet or 2001: A Space Odyssey.
It sets a new standard in how space movies should be filmed. This is a movie that actually uses 3D to make you feel like you are there, with the action and space itself happening all around you. You will feel like you are there, struggling to breathe, struggling to survive, trying to make it back to the earth.
Adventure films, ones where there is one character who is struggling against the elements to survive, have a certain formula. Nature seems to throw everything it can at the protagonist, and they have to adapt, find new ways to survive, to come through the hell and out the other side. Just when you think the protagonist has made it off of the desert island (as an example) they end up in a hurricane, and when the hurricane ends, they find themselves surrounded by sharks, then fighting off pirates. You get the idea.
Well, there are few areas that are less hospitable to life than outer space. No oxygen. No atmosphere. No air pressure. Life cannot exist there. Yet, we humans feel that we can conquer even this
The movie stars Sandra Bullock as mission specialist Ryan Stone. With her is mission commander Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney. It is Kowalski's last mission, but Stone is there to make a crucial repair to a satellite.
Then something horrible happens.
An old Soviet spy satellite fires a missile into another satellite, blowing it to pieces. This creates a debris field that is orbiting the Earth at insane speeds, and it begins to wipe out one satellite after another, creating an ever-growing debris field. Soon, the space shuttle Explorer is right in the path. Stone and Kowalski end up being the only survivors.
Now, with the shuttle destroyed and the debris having wiped out almost all of the other satellites, including key communications satellites that keep them in touch with mission control, they have to find a way to survive. If they can make it to the International Space Station and get into a Soyuz capsule...maybe. But they have to do it before that ever-expanding debris field orbits the Earth and comes back again.
This is a beautifully shot film. Cuaron has found ways to make us feel like we are in space, and there is not a moment that you do not believe that Clooney and Bullock are out there, trying to survive. Some of the scenes are so gorgeous it is impossible to look away, and takes your breath away. I remember thinking Apollo 13 got the whole space travel thing right - you ain't seen nothin' 'til you see this one.
This is Bullock's movie. She is on the screen in almost every seen. Sometimes we see things from her point of view. At times, there is so little dialog that this is almost a silent film. The soundtrack is subtle, with the music truly underscoring the action, adding to the tension.
And the tension ratchets up each second. It is a short movie, just about 90 minutes, and told almost in real-time. This means that the action starts almost from the first shot and never, ever, ever lets up. You WILL be on the edge of your seat, engrossed, feeling as if you are right beside Stone as she tries to find a way to get back to Earth.
Until you see this movie, you cannot understand just how amazing this movie is visually. It is truly unlike anything you have seen before no matter how many sci-fi movies you have seen before. This is a movie that begs to be seen on the biggest screen possible (and you can see it in IMAX) and in 3D.
When the movie ended, I wanted to applaud.
This is one of the best movies of the year.