October Countdown: Gravity

I was so extravagantly impressed by the portrayal of the reality of zero gravity…. The spinning is going to happen — maybe not quite that vigorous — but certainly we’ve been fortunate that people haven’t been in those situations yet. I think it reminds us that there really are hazards in the space business, especially in activities outside the spacecraft.

Buzz Aldrin, on Gravity

We begin our October countdown with an atypical entry— Gravity serves us suspense, to be sure, but it’s no spacegoing horrorshow like, say, Alien. Its premise strays light years from Hollywood’s typical genre offerings, with results prove far superior to most October releases.

Title: Gravity

Cast, Crew, and Other Info:

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Written by Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón


Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone
George Clooney as Matt Kowalski
Ed Harris as Mission Control
Marvin the Martian as Special Cameo

Full Cast and Crew information is available at the imdb.


An accident in space sets an engineer and a medical specialist adrift with few options.

High Points:

All too often in Hollywood, SF gets limited to space opera while thrillers involve uninteresting characters and shock-a-moment pacing that ultimately numb the viewer. Gravity gives us scientifically plausible (if not scientifically perfect) SF, and its plot reminds us of just how hazardous real space travel remains. Its plot puts likeable people in a grave situation, and lets the story unfold over ninety minutes of something like real time.

Low Points:

With everything else the film threw at its protagonists, I found the fire unnecessary and the scene’s execution of it a tad far-fetched.

And, given the film’s overall accuracy, I’m surprised they had Kowalski drift away so rapidly. They could have handled this differently and had a similar result.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 Written SF has handled similar scenarios many times before (one of my first real SF reads was Ray Bradbury’s Kaliedoscope), but motion pictures have avoided them (mostly).

Effects: 6/6 Although this film differs dramatically from 2001, it occupies a similar place; it establishes a standard for spacegoing visuals. The effects serve the story, and we get spectacular views of the earth from space. The 3-D gives the film depth, but hasn’t been used as a cheap gimmick (I also don’t know if it added much).

Production: 6/6 Gravity looks like a film that has been shot in space.

The soundtrack, however, ranges from effective to excessive.

Acting: 6/6 Perhaps the characters could be further delineated, but the few actors prove equal to the very difficult task of carrying ninety minutes. Most of this rests on Sandra Bullock, who plays a most un-Sandra-Bullock-like astronaut here. She apparently trained for six months to get in shape for this demanding role. It shows.

I must say, though, I wonder how this would have worked with the director’s first choices, Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey, Jr.

Story: 5/6 The film takes some turns not typical of Hollywood big-budget, in a suspenseful story which observes the classical unities. The conclusion may stretch some viewer’s suspension of disbelief.

Emotional Response: 6/6

Overall: 6/6 We rarely see real SF on the big screen. I hope this takes next year’s Hugo.

In total, Gravity receives 38/42.

Weekend 2: Dead Clowns
Weekend 3: Carrie (2013)
Weekend 4: Lifeforce
Halloween: The Thing and Creature