Frances Winston checks out the space thriller that could easily see itself doing well at the award ceremonies next year.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
I approached this film with great trepidation, as it seems an unlikely premise to engage an audience for 90 minutes. After all, there is only so much you can do with a person stranded in space – or so you would think. Thankfully I was wrong, and this proves to be one of the most engaging movies of the year to date.
Bullock plays Dr Ryan Stone, who is on her first mission on the space shuttle Explorer. During a spacewalk with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) they are struck by debris from a satellite that has been destroyed by the Russians, and are separated from their ship.
Floating aimlessly, Stone tries to resume contact with the shuttle to no avail, until Kowalski pinpoints her location and tethers her to him. Using a thruster pack the pair make their way back to their craft, only to discover that it has been destroyed, and all the crew are dead. They are then forced to head to the nearest Space Station in the hope that they can use one of their shuttle craft to return to earth. However, this proves more difficult than expected, as fire and a lack of fuel make this mission look more and more hopeless by the minute.
The real star of this movie is the cinematography – space has never looked so good. Although a lot of the movie is set in this usually bleak looking arena, the scenery is so breathtaking that you simply can’t take your eyes off it. Bullock does a wonderful job as Stone, who finds herself drifting thousands of miles from home and sees no hope of ever getting back, while Clooney’s wisecracking, yet experienced, Kowalski is exactly the kind of person you would want by your side if you found yourself in a situation like that.
Although you wouldn’t think it possible, there are twists and turns galore in this movie, and at no point do you find your attention waning. As Bullock struggles to get back to earth you really root for her and feel her pain. Each time she attempts a radio transmission you hope that there will be someone on the other end, even though there usually isn’t.
This soundtrack to this film complements the visual so perfectly, that it is difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins. The best way to describe this is as a sensory overload. I saw this in IMAX 3D and would thoroughly recommend that in order to get the maximum impact from this film. With IMAX you truly get a sense of the vastness of outer space and the hopelessness of the situation. Immediately after the screening I described this as Titanic in Space, and indeed it does leave you with the same lump in your throat that the James Cameron epic did.
This really engages the audience on an emotional level, and makes you consider how tiny we really are in the grand scheme of things. Beautiful, thought provoking and engaging I would be hugely surprised if this did not clean up at awards season.
In Cinemas Now
Don’t forget to catch Frances’ review of Thor: The Dark World on Page 32 of this month’s EILE Magazine digital issue!