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"Gravity"

I went to see Gravity recently – what an immense film.

It’s definitely a slow burner – as has already been commented on, it’s something like 10 minutes before the first cut. But it is beautiful to watch. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are superb. Most of the screen time is devoted to Bullock, playing Dr Ryan Stone, an engineer on her first space flight doing some work on Hubble.

A satellite explosion causes a chain reaction of space debris, which destroys Hubble, detaches Stone from the space shuttle/Hubble, and kills the rest of the crew except for Matt Kowalski (played by Clooney). He manages to retrieve her with his thruster backpack, and the rest of the film follows their attempts to return to earth, initially by thrusting to the ISS. The filming and special effects are magnificent. Like the best special effects, you don’t really notice them. It really does look like it was filmed in space! I guess post “Apollo”, the need to mess around doing somersalts and spinning pens in the vomit comet is done and dusted, and they can get on with the story.

The plot follows a typical diaster theme – which of the protagonists is going to survive (if any), and will they make it? I won’t spoil the film by answering these questions now, although in this particular film it doesn’t matter too much. I can’t say I built up very much empathy with the characters, but it is a beautiful, absorbing film to watch.

There was just one “oh come on” moment, which almost spoiled the film for me, until I realised what was really happening. Aside from this, there was pretty much no disbelief to suspend. Not having been into space, it’s hard to comment on the realism – but as I’ve already said this had more the feel of a documentary than a movie. Obviously, as with any diaster movie, things go from bad to worse, and it does get a little bit eye-rolling at times, but as a visual experience it’s awesome. Indeed, the biggest technical criticism I’ve read is to do with the difference in orbital velocity between hubble and the ISS making “just” thrusting between them impossible.

Doesn’t top my “films you HAVE to see” list, but if you’ve got a couple of hours space then I can think of several worse ways to spend it.

Harrogate Odeon, 8th November 2013, in 3D.

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