‘Gravity’ takes NASA out of space and onto the screen

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Author: Will Westwater

“At 372 miles above the Earth there is nothing to carry sound, no air pressure, no oxygen. Life in space is impossible.” Space is extreme, a dark, empty tomb that stretches lightyears away from Earth. This is the setting of Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity.” The stressful, beautiful sci-fi Oscar chaser stars George Clooney and Sandra Bullock.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are members of a team aboard the Explorer shuttle. Their group, along with an engineer and two other astronauts, is assigned to service the Hubble Space Telescope. During their spacewalk, high speed debris comes into contact with the team, causing a chain of disastrous events that leads to one new goal: get back home alive.

“Gravity” starts at a high level of tension and never lets up. At any point in time oxygen might run low, an engine might fail or a parachute might deploy when it shouldn’t. Meanwhile, the debris that shredded the ship and the Hubble makes a full rotation around the earth in only 90 minutes, so every 90 minutes they have a chance of getting hit again. On more than a couple of occasions Stone and Kowalski just barely hang on to life. An endless void surrounds them, and their only tethers to hope are small space stations and shuttles.

Visually this movie is stunning, featuring wide landscapes of Earth. “Gravity” makes even a disaster look beautiful; bright whites of the shuttle clash with debris, sending pieces flying in every direction, while the stoic and seemingly indifferent Earth sits in the background. “Gravity” in 3D enhances the whole experience without ever getting in the way or being obnoxious.

“What I was amazed at was the detail, the accuracy, of things like the Hubble Space Telescope, the space shuttle…there’s a lot of accuracy in that way,” Michael Massimino (a NASA astronaut) said in an interview with CNN.

The sound is particularly creative, since the team at Warner Brothers had to design music and interactions around the soundless vacuum of space. It has a minimalist soundtrack, making the film far more terrifying and realistic. Having so many collisions and tragedies occur with no sound is chilling, a reminder that sound is another luxury that is not present in space.

Despite the film’s technical prowess and attention to detail, a few scientists dispute its accuracy. Some concerns are small, like how the equipment is out of date or not in use anymore. Some of the larger scientific inaccuracies include the inability of astronauts to move as freely as they do in the film or how the orbits of some of the space stations differ. It is important to remember that “Gravity” is a work of fiction. Some belief must be suspended.

With spot-on performances, impressive digital effects and an inspirational story line, Warner Brothers’ “Gravity” is easily one of the best movies of the year.


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