It’s something we try not to think about when we think about astronauts and space travel. What if they fall? Granted, they are falling the entire time they are in orbit; essentially that’s all they are doing – falling very fast in a circle, traveling at about five miles a second around the Earth and 120 mph down toward the surface. To put that in perspective, the average 9mm bullet travels 1,000 feet per second (682 mph). So an orbiting body travels at over 25 times the speed of a bullet. And if that orbiting body was a human, without a space shuttle to return to there would be the danger of finding a way to re-enter the atmosphere before you run out of oxygen. Oh, and also there is the debris field that encircles the planet comprised of broken satellite pieces and other space chunks hurtling through space even faster than a lone human. This debris field ripped through the shuttle and a neighboring space station, reducing it to Swiss cheese before falling out of the sky. So time is of the essence because this debris field is orbiting at a speed that puts it around the planet every 90 minutes and it was by sheer luck that the astronaut didn’t get hit when it passed last time.
This is a tough story to handle. It requires some of the most dramatic, heart stopping moments to be played out on screen. This is why Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney strapped into the roles. This could be one to watch at Oscar time. I know everyone is agog with buzz for Ben Stiller’s new pseudo-remake of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” as being a shoo-in for best picture, but this reporter is inclined to disagree. “Gravity” is heart wrenching and breathtaking.
Using one of the best new technologies for shooting a space film on Earth, this movie has you believing that they actually trained Clooney and Bullock for a year to shoot them into a low Earth orbit and make a movie. Unlike “Apollo 13,” which was shot on a shuttle called the Vomit Comet (which rises and falls in a hyperbolic arc, allowing for about 25 seconds of free fall conditions while staying in the Earth’s atmosphere. The shoot crew and cast of the film performed over 58,000 dives to shoot the film actually in weightless conditions), “Gravity” was filmed in a stage with a camera circling one actor at a time, appearing to make the actor float around as the camera is relatively still. The effect is just as convincing as real free fall. This could be a contender not only for best picture and best actor/actress, but also best cinematography.
Though this is one to watch come Oscar time, it is just a great movie in general, regardless of awards. And although I rarely say this, go see it in 3D, in IMAX 3D if possible. Pay the up charge – it is completely worth it. And sit down in front. You may have to crane your neck but the visual of being in space, looking at the entire planet before you in her gigantic majesty is something you must experience.
Don’t wait for DVD, go today to a theater.
I give this film 5 out of 5 stars.