Gravity opens by setting us at ease as George Clooney nonchalantly traverses the perils of space like everything else he does in the movies. A drama set precariously above Earth in our always suspect shuttle, is there anything new in knowing that Clooney will have it covered in the end? Disappearing 36 minutes into the film, the common place clearly doesn’t apply – that is unless it does.
Off the signature Clooney chatter, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is weathering space sickness and diligently applying her gloved digits to a scanning satellite developed in her work below. Her non-astronaut nonchalance applies to easily overlooking Matt (Clooney) as he seeks to frivolously set the spacewalk record and entertain and placate everyone within reach of a long backlog of monologues. “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission,” he preempts each in sarcastic homage to every war and science fiction film ever made.
His experience also make sure to acknowledge that being interactive helps extend the calm and ain’t so bad for us either.
Mission Control: We know the Corvette story, Matt
Matt : Even engineering?
Mission Control: Especially engineering.
But once the randomness of space forces the most important acknowledgement, he’s all business when a debris field of careening satellite fragments is heading straight for the shuttle. “Not one more second Dr. Stone, shut it down. That’s an order.”
The abrupt changeover – stored seamlessly in Matt’s standard operating manual – proves futile. The field pulverizes the shuttle and sends Ryan and Matt hurtling through space. The entire crew dead, Clooney doesn’t hesitate to morph again in hopes of maximizing the duo’s slim chance for survival.
“Breathe Ryan. Breath. Give me a visual so I can lock onto your location,” Clooney makes you believe and allows Dr. Ryan to get a fix on herself.
Matt then zeroes in on the space novice, and his connecting tether does all it can to make Ryan at least believe that the vastness of space has been put at the disadvantage. Setting a course for the Russian Space Station, he lays out the plan and puts it in terms that minimize their monumental task. “I know where the Russians stash their vodka,” he jokes.
Along the way, Matt’s small talk reveals the loss of Ryan’s life and sheds light on how not even the mysteries of universe let her move on. But Clooney’s best efforts can’t deny what it will take to again the number of survivors as her tether becomes entangled and secures her to the Russian Spacestation. “Let go Ryan,” Matt soothes her a third of the way through the film as he knows there’s no way she can pull him back.
Only a few minutes left of oxygen, even Clooney cannot escape infinity and beyond. Of course, if Matt was 2001’s Dave Bowman when all manner of things go wrong, he’d be able to deadpan, “I think I beat Anatoli’s record,” to inspire her to not give up.
On the other hand, Dave Bowman as Starchild has nothing on Clooney, and his outer worldly presence doesn’t rely on the supernatural to enable this film to go the distance.