This film had been on my radar for awhile, but I'll admit that I had my doubts. When the movie trailer first came out, I wondered two key things:
- Can Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carry a movie alone? I know they're both talented, but an hour and a half with just two people?
- What's the plot? Is there a plot? Is it JUST Sandra lost in space?
The answers are simple.
Can Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carry a movie on their own? YES. And brilliantly so. And, to be fair, most of the movie is Sandra alone, and it is amazing.
Can a movie about Sandra lost in space have a plot? YES. I think the trailer does one big disservice--it makes it look as if the entire movie is Sandra drifting. And, while the space photography would be lovely in such a case, that would actually lead for a boring story.
Instead, the plot is more about how Sandra has to figure out a way to survive. After a field of debris strikes the shuttle Sandra, George, and a crew of astronauts were on, the survivor(s) must find a way back to Earth. Using space stations currently in orbit and whatever supplies they can scavenge, they must attempt to survive in a place that is not capable of supporting human life.
In short, it's a survival story in space.
And it is mind-blowingly gorgous.
First, you have all the shots of Earth and space from space--and while the movie could have just been done with a backdrop of space, I have to say that director Alfonso Cuarón actually turned the setting into a character, one of the best things a movie (or book) can do.
The title of the movie is apt--it takes place almost entirely in space, and you see all the glorious weightless shots you'd expect--things floating away, drifting, astronauts soaring. But there are a few moments when it's just breathtakingly well done. My friend Megan Shepherd recommended we see the movie in 3D, although I was doubtful--I rarely think 3D is worth it. It is for this movie. It so is. There's a scene where a single tear floats out of the screen, and it looks real. And rather than 3D being an afterthought, the 3D features of this movie, with only a few rare exceptions, enhance it in such a way that I cannot think of a better 3D movie in existence.
You don't just have space in the background. In one of the opening shots, you have a view of Earth and space, and then, slowly, the camera pans to a tiny speck. The speck grows larger and larger and eventually you see that the speck was actually the shuttle the astronauts are working from. Sure, you know space is big. But you also know the shuttle is big, so seeing it in perspective suddenly puts you in perspective.
Perspective is also the strength of Sandra Bullock's acting in this movie. She plays the character of Ryan, a woman on her first mission in space. She's not there for the love of it--she's there to work on the Hubble telescope and go home. Her fear is real and visceral even before the debris field strikes, and after--her fear becomes our fear.
She is a the perfect "every man." And even moreso, she shows us her character rather than tells us. There is a tiny amount of backstory to her life--just a hint of what she's like back on Earth--but the vast majority of the movie isn't so much about who she is in normal conditions--it's about who she is right here, right now.
I don't to spoil anything for you. So rather than give away the plot, I thought I'd just say this: this movie literally had my heart racing, tears burning my eyes, my breath caught in my throat--and I could not look away.
Too long; didn't read version:
PS: I'm calling it now. ALL THE OSCARS. ALL OF THEM.