I heard about this film being Oscar nominated. I knew it was about space and starred Sandra Bullock. I was utterly and completely unprepared for how utterly amazing, and at the same time how absolutely terrifying this film is.
It begins in space. Three astronauts are working on the Hubble Telescope. There is a problem with the comms system. Sandra Bullock plays Dr Ryan Stone, who is on her first space mission on the shuttle Explorer. With her is George Clooney, who play Matt Kowalski, who is a veteran on his final shuttle mission. The third suited astronaut - Shariff - is bouncing around enjoying weightlessness, whilst Stone is trying to resolve the comms issue on the telescope and taking things very seriously.
Whilst they work, Kowalski is talking to Houston. Ed Harris is the voice of Houston, although you never see him. Matt regales Houston with his tales, and laments that this will be his last space walk. Stone tells Houston she needs more time to get the shuttle fixed. Kowalski joins her and asks if she needs any help. Its all quite amusing at this point - Clooney being the king of flirts plays off Bullock's all business attitude.
He continues to tell his tales, as Stone works. A screw floats off and Matt reaches after it, safely tethered to the shuttle. Its quite unnerving how they are floating about. Houston tells them there is some debris heading close to their location, but it looks as though it will miss them. Matt continues to regales them about his adventures.
Suddenly Houston warns them that they are in the path of impending space debris, as it has collided with another satellite and they are now directly in its way. Houston commands them to abort. They try to reach their craft, the space shuttle Explorer, but it gets hit by the debris. Shariff gets hit, and the shuttle gets hammered by the debris which Houston says is travelling at the speed of a bullet. It tears through the ship. Matt manages to get behind something to shelter, but Stone's tether is dragging her. She releases it only to find herself catapulted away from the shuttle.
Stone spins off out into space, hurtling away, spinning over and over. As she spins further and further into space and away from the shuttle, she sees the blue planet beneath her. Utterly terrifying. She breathes heavily as her spin slows, but she continues to drift away, alone, isolated. Dr Ryan Stone. Alone, unable to control her spin, scared, and using her oxygen fast in her panic.
Matt's voice is still clear, and he tries to locate her, but she can't tell him anything. She is spinning so fast, she can't see anything to pinpoint her location. His voice stops. She continues to float. It seems she is lost.
Kowalski suddenly appears -his voice load and clear. He uses his manned propulsion pack to reach Stone and tether her to him. Using boosters to take them back to the Explorer, they find Shariff. He hasn't survived the impact, and she can clearly see that half his face has been destroyed by the impact. Sadly she sees a laminated picture tethered to him of his family.
Going forward to the shuttle, they find it has been devastated. Everyone else on the shuttle has died. They are the sole survivors. The debris has ripped open the hull, exposing those inside to the extreme coldness unprotected. Matt tells Stone that they have no choice but to try and reach the International Space Station - the ISS.
Worse still, they work out that they have about 90 minutes before the debris comes around again, likely even more deadly having struck other satellites in its way. Tethered to Matt, they slowly work their way forward. Her oxygen is running low, so Matt talks to her about life on earth. Finally she confides that she lost her young daughter. She fell and banged her head at school, enough to kill her. Its then that you realise just why she is so serious, and she loses herself in thought.
They use the thrusters to reach the ISS - International Space Station. One of the modules has gone - the crew having evacuated. The ISS is also damaged, but Matt tells Stone that they could use it to reach another satellite - a chinese one that is closest to them. Its parachute has been deployed and is tangled all around the station.
Matt uses the final burst from his pack to send them flying towards the ISS. Stone manages to grab hold of something, but Matt bounces off. As he hurtles away, the tether between him and Stone pulls taut. His momentum starts to drag her with him, but her foot gets tangled in the parachute. The tether continues to pull them both further out into space.
Matt tells Stone that she has to make it home. Realising what he is going to do, Stone pleads with him not to do it. She tells him she has them both, but he disconnects. He floats away into space. This is truly awful. I cannot even imagine how that would feel, just to be floating away like that. Terrifying.
Matt however, continues to talk to Stone, advising her what to do, telling her she will make it. Her oxygen runs out, but Matt keeps talking to her. She finally manages to reach the ISS and climbs inside. Matt continues to joke that he will make the longest spacewalk record as she goes through the airlock.
Stone isn't out of the woods yet. She strip out of her suit, gulps in air, but then a fire starts in the unit. She rushes to the Soyuz capsule, and makes it just in time. She suits up and tries to get it to move. She can't go anywhere as the parachute has tethered the capsule to the ISS. She closes her suit and goes back outside in to space to free the tether. The debris cloud suddenly starts to bombard the area, and the ISS takes a hammering. Stone manages to get back inside, but can't go anywhere - she is out of fuel.
Stone tries to radio for help, but gets some guy that speaks another language. Giving up thinking its hopeless, she starts to drift away from reality. Suddenly there is a knock on the glass - its Matt! Matt turns the oxygen back on - she had turned it off in her despair. He tells her how she can survive - she can use the landing rockets. He tells her losing her daughter is hard, but not a reason to die.
Stone gasps and realises Matt isn't really there. Snapping the oxygen back on, she starts to come round. She realises it was her subconscious and uses the re-entry landing rockets to thrust her to the chinese satellite station. She cannot aim for it in the Soyuz, and when she is near enough, she has to leave the capsule and try to use a fire extinguisher to navigate her way to it. She works her way to it, but then slams into it, just about managing to hang on.
She struggles to climb inside as the debris having gone full circle again starts to pound into it. She works out how to get the capsule working as it takes a hit. Stone prays and tells Matt to say hello to her little girl for her. She survives a brutal re-entry and frantically tries all the buttons to release the parachute. Managing to do so, she slows down above the ocean. The capsule sinks down, as the radio crackles - Houston advise they are on the way. Stone releases herself into the water and swims to the surface.
She crawls to the shore, but her legs are wobbly and at first she can't stand. Slowly, tentatively she manages to stand. The sole survivor.
Make no mistake here - this is a truly fantastic film. Its a horrifying thought to be just lost in space. but more than that. It really does make you think about the job of the astronauts. How unglamorous it must when you are up above the world like that, how scary, how isolated and just how damned dangerous! I had never even considered space debris or where everything winds up up there.
Clooney is brilliant, but its Bullock that shines. She is phenomenal in this. Hard to believe its the same woman as in some of her more light-hearted roles. Here she is inspiring and talented. Its a very clever, very beautiful, very sad and very disturbing film. I've not seen a film this good in many a year. 10 out of 10. Absolutely amazing. :)