Rating: The agony you feel for our 2 astronauts reflects our daily experiences on Earth. See this film, as we all need to ponder our existence.
Taking place on a damaged space station, Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is the most challenging space adventure focusing on the human heart since Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). It forces you to examine the ultimate purpose of life given the fact that we are all going to die.
What is incredible about Cuaron’s film is that there are only two actors on-screen, Sandra Bullock (Ryan Stone) and George Clooney (Matt Kowalski). They are initially seen engaged in a lengthy space walk to repair their space station, seemingly standard fare until things go brutally wrong.
Bullock is a no-nonsense engineer while Clooney basically plays a version of himself. She’s as gloomy as he is lighthearted, and he enjoys trying to communicate with Houston Control with at least one story they haven’t already heard. Unfortunately, I can relate to Kowalski’s difficulty.
However, chaos engulfs our two colleagues when debris from a demolished Soviet space station enters their orbit. What’s worse, the debris is traveling in excess of several thousands of miles per hour, and they have to get back into the station before being seriously hurt. When they fail, Bullock is suddenly thrust into space, spinning uncontrollably as her oxygen supply dwindles. Clooney hunts her down, eventually attaching her to himself with a long cord.
What happens next is an incredible study of what I have frequently called the human condition. As Clooney tries to guide Bullock to a neighboring station, he engages in a conversation that forces her to re-examine her life. You soon learn that she is all work and no play, something related to the tragic loss of a child years earlier.
As frivolous as it may sound, Clooney succeeds marvelously at making fun of himself. Handsome, smart and sarcastic as hell, he tries to make Bullock care about living even if it means making a transparent pass at her where he gets the color of her eyes wrong.
Central to the film, Clooney is always in a spacesuit except for a late scene that I don’t dare give away. In Bullock’s case, she is able to shed her suit when reaching a station and confronts the odds of getting safely back to Earth.
Physically injured after enduring the onslaught of the debris referred to above, there is a remarkable scene where Bullock curls up into a fetal position, a tube in the background looking as if it was an umbilical cord. Clearly, the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki is as beautiful as it is mesmerizing.
The central question facing our beleaguered astronauts is whether life is worth living, particularly given the monstrous disappointments that eventually confront us all. Stated simply, is it worth sacrificing your life for another person?
In a sense, the question facing Bullock was the same that Matt Damon confronted in Saving Private Ryan (1998), when a dying Tom Hanks looked up at the youngster and emphatically told him, “Earn this.”;
Shouldn’t that be the legacy we impart to all of our children?