Monday 20 November 2017

Out of this world survival story

Out of this world survival story

Paul Whitington

I've always thought that a space-walking astronaut must feel simultaneously like an insect and a god. Floating miles above our tiny, sun-kissed planet, they bask in a glorious panoramic view that men were never meant to see: but if they turn away from Earth for a moment, how terrifying it must feel to be confronted by the vast emptiness of space. Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is set almost entirely in the freezing wilderness beyond our upper atmosphere, and uses that bleakly beautiful backdrop to investigate what it is to be human.

Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space mission aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer, and is tentatively enjoying a space walk in the company of seasoned veteran Lieutentant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) when they hear bad news from Mission Control in Houston. An accidental Russian missile strike on one of their own defunct satellites has formed a cloud of dense debris that's hurtling towards them at a frightening rate of knots. Before they can take cover the debris smashes into them, killing a colleague, destroying the Explorer and leaving Stone and Kowalski stranded in space.

She starts hyperventilating, but Kowalski encourages her to believe she'll survive her ordeal and return to Earth. His plan for doing so involves a Soyuz module, a Chinese space station and any amount of blind luck, and he and Stone are in for a terrifying ordeal that would test the resolve of Indiana Jones.

Cuaron's lean and mean survival story effortlessly avoids the many clichés associated with space travel in the movies. He uses 3D and jaw-dropping digital rendering to create an overwhelming space-scape for his characters, the film's narrative drive is impeccable, and Stone and Kowalski's ordeal happens almost in real time.

Cuaron's film makes you appreciate all the precious gifts we humans take for granted, like air, and most especially gravity.

Irish Independent

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