Happy Halloween

This one's a Must-see!

This one’s a Must-see!

A breathtaking experience; dazzling.

A breathtaking experience; dazzling.

I think it is fair of me to include this one in this year’s series of horror-themed reviews, because surely a film has rarely been so consistently terrifying and nail-bitingly intense? Surely this can, in a sense, be called a horror film? I finally went to see Gravity the other day, and I’d answer yes to that question.

The dangers of space are perfectly demonstrated in 'Gravity'.

The dangers of space are perfectly demonstrated in ‘Gravity’.

Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón, the man who brought us Children of Men, Gravity is no doubt one of the most accurate portrayals of life in space in film history, and it uses its correctness to create a film so realistically thrilling and admirably scary that it might change the minds of those who once wanted to become austronauts. Austronauts themselves have applauded it, with Buzz Aldrin himself claiming that Earth doesn’t look cloudy enough in most shots as his sole complaint.

The film starts off with a shot that lasts well over 10 minutes, giving us a no less than breathtaking view of the Space Shuttle Explorer as we are introduced to our main characters. Most of the austronauts there are “faceless” as the focus for the rest of the film is solely on the characters of space newbie Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and the much more experienced and confident astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). When a cloud of space debris, reportedly caused by a Russian missile launch that destroyed a sattelite, suddenly hits them, Bullock is sent hurtling into space. When Clooney finds and gets a hold of her, they soon discover that they are the sole survivors of the disaster.

The shuttle, meanwhile, has been damaged beyond use so they must use George Clooney’s trusty thruster pack to make it to the  International Space Station, which happens to be nearby. Things only get worse from here on out, though, as Sandra Bullock starts running out of oxygen, most of the space stations have already been evacuated due to the space debris and several things go wrong that make the situation seem more and more hopeless. They put up with all of this while also avoiding the space debris which moves at such a speed that it oribts the Earth one full lap in 90 minutes, meaning that every 90 minutes comes an almost certain death.

No characters on Earth are ever seen and no clichéd scenes of worried Mission Control workers ever interrupt the space action. The closest we get is a voice-over by Ed Harris, in what’s most definitely a nod to his character in Apollo 13.

gravity

When we finally went to see this after a lovely dinner last friday, my father joked that the most baffling thing about Gravity is that it seems way too smart and well-made to be so successful in the U.S.A and that something must be wrong. Well, the film recently got beaten by Bad Grandpa at the box office so you can all cease your worries that the Americans have actually learned.

I gotta admit, I had some problems with the film upon my initial viewing. There are, for instance, some moments of symbolism that seemed a bit obvious to me and I often thought to myself “Would that really happen?”, but if I understand the astronauts who saw this correctly, it would. Even the things I myself was unsure about is actually pretty much spot on. Apparently Sandra Bullock even presses all of the right buttons in the right sequence in a scene where she’s desperately trying to activate an espace capsule to fly away from a space station that’s caught fire amidst the chaos, even when she’s supposed to be pressing the wrong buttons in-Universe, she’s pressing the correct wrong buttons! Space doesn’t even have sound in this film. They even got that right! Surely this is the first time since Stanley Kubrick‘s 2001: A Space Odyssey, not counting maybe Firefly?

As remarkably correct and unusually accurate as the film is, though, there are still some things it quite clearly gets wrong. For instance, the distances between the different space stations and the way they get there by simply aiming at them and moving in that direction. In reality you would need to employ excruciatingly advanced mathematics to calculate where the space station would be in the time it would take you to reach that same spot, all whilst keeping in mind the different sizes of your respective orbits and the difference in your velocities, and then head towards that spot rather than where the station currently is. Same thing with launching a rocket to Mars. You don’t want it to go where Mars is at that exact moment; you want it to go where Mars is going to be located, so that’s where you aim.

Simultaneously, if you’re aiming at an object that’s in an orbit, accelerating towards it will cause you to ascend into a higher orbit, giving you a slower orbital speed, which means you’ll actually end up further away from the object. What you’d really want to do is slow down and descend into a smaller orbit and then pick up the thrust when it’s time to go back to the same altitude as the object you were chasing the whole time. At least I’m fairly sure that’s how it’d work.

Sandra Bullock carries 'Gravity' flawlessly as she gets to put up with too much stuff to name.

Sandra Bullock carries ‘Gravity’ flawlessly as she gets to put up with too much stuff to name.

There’s also the oft-mentioned part where George Clooney is hanging from a harness whilst being seemingly pulled away from Sandra Bullock by some invisible force out in deep space where there’s no discernable source of gravity that would have him caught at that time. People try to defend this by claiming that the space station he was hanging from was in fact spinning. I kept this in mind whilst watching the film. It looked pretty still to me. But honestly, even with little things like this, I must sorta do what Neil deGrasse Tyson did. He picked apart every scientific flaw of the film on his Twitter account, before stating that he loved the hell out of it.

Because indeed, what a terrific film. The more I think about, the more I realize how great it really is. It is intense and astounding in its realisim, suspenseful in its action, hypnotizing in its awesome soundtrack, convincing in its performances, remarkable in its simulated zero gravity, endlessly captivating in its editing and cinematography and refreshing in how it is one of those movies where the 3D is actually used to a smashing advantage. Combined with flawless visual effects, the lengthy shots and the gorgeous cinematography, the 3D creates what is easily the most genuine and terrifying feeling of being lost in space that any science fiction film has ever pulled off. My father put it best when saying that even though the story and writing doesn’t exceed a 9/10, the visuals are nothing less than an outright 11/10, and if you were to do some maths you’d probably end up somewhere around a solid 10/10. Hence I am giving Gravity a very enthusiastic 5/5!

I’m not recomending Gravity for those of you who wanna see a movie that makes you feel like you’re in space. I’m recommending Gravity for those who actually want to go to space for real! Because that is what this mindblowing film will accomplish and in the process maybe make you, well, not wanna go to space.

5/5 whatever

Advertisements