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Laramie Movie Scope: Gravity

High adventure in space

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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October 9, 2013 -- I finally got to see this film yesterday after a delay caused by scheduling conflicts and it was sure worth the wait. Although it isn't believable because of scientific and technical inaccuracies, it is still a gorgeous-looking edge-of-your-seat thriller with emotional power set in a silent, weightless vacuum, with the cold stars above, the glorious earth below.

This film is very unusual, in that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are wearing space suits for much of this film, and much of the film is silent. Sandra sheds most of her clothes at times, but George Clooney never gets out of his bulky spacesuit. There is hardly anyone else in the movie, and for much of the film, there is only one character on screen.

Even though this is a science fiction film, it is also a very personal film about Sandra Bullock's character, Ryan Stone. In a bravura performance, Bullock reveals the pain, loneliness and despair of her character, but she also exhibits strength and a primal will to survive. The final scene, which is open to various interpretations I won't go into here, can be seen as a kind of evolution, or rebirth.

Sadly, Clooney's character is not as deep or well-rounded. He's like an unflappable airline pilot whose job is to calm everyone down and to remain calm and collected in a catastrophe while everyone else is falling apart. We don't really get to see beneath that shell.

The scientific inaccuracies in the story include the idea that the Hubble Space Telescope, the International Space Station and another space station, Tiangong, are all sort of in the same neighborhood, and that an astronaut could get from one to another with a portable rocket pack or a disabled escape module. In reality, all these things are vast distances apart and very difficult to reach, even with the best equipment available.

In another scene, Clooney's character, Matt Kowalski, drifts away from Stone after he un clips himself from a tether. In reality, gravity, or whatever other forces are at work in this scene would affect both Stone and Kowalski about the same. They would stay together, not drift apart as depicted. In the movie, gravity, or centrifugal force, seems to be affecting Kowalski very differently than it affects Stone, who is just a few feet away from him. There are also problems with the way orbits of space junk and the manner in which re-entry vehicles land on earth are depicted in the movie. Most of this is just artistic license and most people who watch this probably won't know or care about the science involved in the story.

For the most part, however, the film's depiction of the wonders and dangers of space travel are very impressive. I was willing to suspend my disbelief enough to overcome some nagging scientific inaccuracies and I found this film very enjoyable. Also, the science in the film isn't that important. What is important is one person, Stone, and her personal emotional journey. Visually, the film is dazzling, particularly in 3D. The only thing better is the Imax 3D movies “Space Station” and “Hubble 3D” which were actually filmed in space by astronauts. Watching these films is the closest many of us will ever get to the feeling of being in space.

While the movie is very heavy on special effects and dazzling visuals, the part of it that impressed me most was the very personal journey of Stone (Bullock). Her tearful plea to Kowalski about her daughter is very moving. The power of these emotions makes our world and all of outer space seem small and insignificant. This film rates a B+.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)