Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gravity: A movie you won't forget

I finally saw Gravity. It gets a middling grade at best on physics and orbital mechanics, but A's for Sandra's performance, for the indelible visuals, and for getting the feel of being in space right. An amazing film.
I suppose you could give it a D- or an F for the orbital mechanics, if you were minded to be picky: the Shuttle, Hubble, and two space stations are shown in near-identical orbits, with each spacecraft visible from the other, and what orbit was that debris in so it came around every 90 minutes (a low orbit) yet somehow included taking out communications satellites, which operate in far higher orbits?
(Someone pointed out another oddity, which is not really about this film but about our spacefaring culture: there is a lot of irony in making a science fiction film about machines we have already sent to museums.)
All that said, the director did his best to reflect the reality of space travel within the needs of the story.  Anchored by Sandra Bullock and, in a brief but memorable role, George Clooney, with Ed Harris (who else?) as the voice of Mission Control, the human drama of voyaging though the most inhospitable realm imaginable - on where you are denied even the normal feeling of falling because there's nothing to fall TO - is brought to life as never before.  The technical wizardry is amazing: even when you know how a shot was done, you can't see it.  Some of it really could have been filmed on orbit. 
It is, in the end, not a space film but a film about survival.
It's about being human.
It's a film about US.

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