Archive for July 28th, 2016


by Christianne Benedict

Gravity (2013, directed by Alfonso Cuarón) is a technical marvel and one of the most viscerally terrifying films I’ve ever seen. It’s the very definition of a “ride” movie. Show this on the huge screen at Epcot center while shaking the audience with rumble seats and it wouldn’t be out of place. This isn’t a criticism, and if I seem ungrateful going forward for focusing on what the film lacks, I’m not, really, because for what it is,Gravity is absolutely splendid.

The film this most reminds me of is The Impossible. Like that film, the seeming miracle of what it puts on screen frequently overrides other critical concerns. Film craft is underrated in critical discourse, sometimes. Does a Fabergé egg need to say something beyond the exquisite craft of its making? I say no. A narrative film, though, makes promises, and like The Impossible, this film has dramatic deficiencies. Cuarón is smart to keep things simple, but it makes for a film that’s ultimately shallow, however broad the net of its craft may be cast.

The story is simple: a trio of astronauts are spacewalking during a mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope when the Russians destroy one of their own spy satellites with a missile. The resulting debris cloud proves catastrophic to everything else in orbit, including the Endeavor, our heroes’ shuttle. Dr. Sharrif is killed instantly, but Commander Matt Kowalski is spared. He’s in a jet pack prototype, so he has propulsion even though he’s not tethered to the ship. Dr. Ryan Stone is not so lucky. She is whipped around the debris by the robot arm and eventually thrown clear of the wreck into space, untethered to everything. This is Stone’s first flight, and she’s understandably terrified by her predicament, but she manages to get her bearings so Kowalski can retrieve her. Unfortunately, when they return to the Endeavor, it’s a ghost ship. Everyone is dead. Their next option is the International Space Station, where there is a Soyuz escape capsule. The ISS, too, is abandoned, and the Soyuz is useless for reentry, having deployed its chute in the rain of debris. It’s still possible to fly the Soyuz elsewhere, though, and there is one last option in reach: a Chinese station also has a Soyuz. But the debris cloud is coming around again. Fast…. (more…)

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