Directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, Gravity is a 2013 British-American science fiction drama movie set almost entirely in space. The George Clooney & Sandra Bullock starer is one of the more universally critically acclaimed films in recent years and is a box office hit.
The film is set during a fictional Shuttle Explorer’s STS-157 mission and we see medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone, who is on her first ever space mission, aboard the Explorer, commanded by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski, who is commanding his final expedition. While on a space walk to service the Hubble Space Telescope, Mission Control in Houston warns the team about a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite, which has caused a chain reaction forming a cloud of space debris. Houston tells them to abort the mission but the communications are lost immediately. The astronauts continue to transmit, hoping that the ground crew can still hear them. Debris from the satellites at high speed strikes the Explorer and detaches Stone from the shuttle, leaving her tumbling through space. Kowalski soon recovers Stone and they make their way back to the space shuttle.
They reach the hatch of the shuttle only to find that the debris also hit the Explorer, causing catastrophic damage leaving all the crew dead. They use the thruster pack to make their way to the International Space Station (ISS), which is in orbit only about 900 m (2,950 ft) away. Kowalski estimates they have 90 minutes before the debris field completes an orbit and threatens them again. Kowalski gets Stone to talk about the death of her daughter and her life back home, trying to get her frightened mind to not think about their predicament. They find the ISS damaged but still operational and that the crew has evacuated in one of its two Soyuz modules and that the parachute of the other capsule has accidentally been deployed, rendering it useless for returning to Earth. Kowalski suggests that they use the remaining capsule to make it to the Chinese space station Tiangong, 100 mi (160 km) away, and board one of its modules to return safely to Earth. Almost out of air they try and grab onto the ISS as they fly by and Stone leg gets entangled in Soyuz’s parachute cords and she is able to grab a strap on Kowalski’s suit as he is pulled away. Despite Stone’s protests, Kowalski detaches himself from the tether to save her from drifting away with him, and she is pulled back towards the ISS. As Kowalski floats away, he radios her additional instructions and encouragement.
Stone manages to get inside the ISS via an airlock just as her oxygen runs out and makes it to the Soyuz capsule, avoiding a fire. As she maneuvers the capsule away from the ISS, the tangled parachute tethers prevent Soyuz from separating from the station. She has to spacewalk to release the cables succeeding just as the debris field completes its orbit and destroys the station. She sets her path to the Tiangong but finds the capsule low on fuel. She tries to contact Houston but instead gets a brief radio communication with a Greenlandic Inuit fisherman and listening to him cooing a baby. Stone shuts down her oxygen supply to carry out a painless suicide but hallucinates about Kowalski coming in through the hatch and scolding her for giving up, he tells her to rig the Soyuz’s landing rockets to propel the capsule toward Tiangong. Restoring the oxygen in the capsule with new strength and the will to live on. She restores the flow of oxygen and uses the landing rockets to navigate toward Tiangong. She uses a fire extinguisher as a makeshift thruster to maneuver herself towards Tiangong just as space debris knocks it from its trajectory, and it begins rapidly deorbiting. She enters a capsule and sets off towards the earth as Tiangong starts to break up on the upper edge of the atmosphere. Houston manages to track the capsule’s entry and it lands in a lake but a fire causes Stone to quickly open the hatch which also allows water to rapidly fill the capsule. She swims out, ditches her astronaut suit and makes her way to the shore. Grateful to be back in the full gravity of earth she takes her first shaky steps and walks.
Visually stunning and exhilarating to watch the disaster / survival theme of the film. The movie makers have managed to take my breath away with the beautiful, grand shots of the earth from space and contrast that with the feeling of isolation in the vastness of the deep black. There are some religious symbolism in the film, as noted by the believers; the Ganges in the sun, Buddha statue the St. Christopher icon and ofcourse the hallucination of her dead colleague is seen as an angel sent by god! As cliched as I found them (the only thing missing would have been an illusion of Stone’s dead daughter) however, something that was very obvious and even stated by director Cuarón is the final scene with Stone as an allegory for human evolution; “She’s in these murky waters almost like an amniotic fluid or a primordial soup. In which you see amphibians swimming. She crawls out of the water, not unlike early creatures in evolution. And then she goes on all fours. And after going on all fours she’s a bit curved until she is completely erect. It was the evolution of life in one, quick shot”. Stone’s return from space with some meteor like debris may be seen as a hint that elements essential to the development of life on earth may have come from outer space in form of meteorites I give the movie a 9 outta 10! Just breathtakingly beautiful to watch.