|Gravity is a 2013 British-American 3D Techno thriller and space drama film. Directed, co-written, co-produced and co-edited by Alfonso Cuarón, the film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts involved in the mid-orbit destruction of a space shuttle and their attempt to return to Earth.
Cuarón wrote the screenplay with his son Jonás and attempted to develop the project at Universal Studios. After the rights to the project were sold, the project found traction at Warner Bros. instead. The studio approached multiple actresses before casting Bullock in the female lead role. Robert Downey Jr. was also involved as the male lead before leaving the project and being replaced by Clooney. David Heyman, who previously worked with Cuarón on Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, produced the film with him. London-based VFX company Framestore spent over 3 years creating most of the visual effects for the entire movie encompassing over 80 minutes of screen time.
Gravity opened the 70th Venice International Film Festival in August 2013. Its North American premiere was three days later at the Telluride Film Festival. It received a wide release in the United States and Canada on October 4, 2013. The film was met with universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike; both groups giving praise for Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, Steven Price’s musical score, Cuarón’s direction, Bullock’s performance and Framestore’s visual effects.
In 2014, Gravity was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Cuarón and Best Actress for Bullock. The film was also awarded seven Critics Choice Awards and a Golden Globe Award for Best Director for Cuarón.
The film is set during a fictitious Shuttle Explorer’s STS-157 mission. Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space shuttle mission aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer. She is accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney), who is commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope, Mission Control in Houston warns the team about a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite, which has caused a chain reaction forming a cloud of space debris. Mission Control orders that the mission be aborted. Shortly after, communications with Mission Control are lost, though the astronauts continue to transmit, hoping that the ground crew can still hear them.
High-speed debris strikes the Explorer and Hubble, and detaches Stone from the shuttle, leaving her tumbling through space. Kowalski soon recovers Stone and they make their way back to the space shuttle. They discover that the shuttle has suffered catastrophic damage and the crew is dead. They use the thruster pack to make their way to the International Space Station (ISS), which is in orbit only about 900 mi (1,450 km) away. Kowalski estimates they have 90 minutes before the debris field completes an orbit and threatens them again.
En route to the ISS, the two discuss Stone’s life back home and the death of her young daughter. As they approach the substantially damaged but still operational ISS, they see its crew has evacuated in one of its two Soyuz modules and that the parachute of the other capsule has accidentally been deployed, rendering it useless for returning to Earth. Kowalski suggests the remaining Soyuz be used to travel to the nearby Chinese space station Tiangong, 100 mi (160 km) away, and board one of its modules to return safely to Earth. Out of air and maneuvering power, the two try to grab onto the ISS as they fly by. Stone’s leg gets entangled in Soyuz’s parachute cords and she is able to grab a strap on Kowalski’s suit. Despite Stone’s protests, Kowalski detaches himself from the tether to save her from drifting away with him, and she is pulled back towards the ISS. As Kowalski floats away, he radios her additional instructions and encouragement.
Nearly out of oxygen, Stone manages to enter the ISS via an airlock but must hastily make her way to the Soyuz to escape a fire. As she maneuvers the capsule away from the ISS, the tangled parachute tethers prevent Soyuz from separating from the station. She spacewalks to release the cables, succeeding just as the debris field completes its orbit and destroys the station. Stone aligns the Soyuz with Tiangong but discovers the craft’s engine has no fuel. After a brief radio communication with a Greenlandic Inuit fisherman and listening to him cooing a baby, Stone resigns herself to being stranded and shuts down the oxygen supply of the cabin in order to commit a painless suicide. As she begins to lose consciousness, Kowalski appears outside and enters the capsule. Scolding her for giving up, he tells her to rig the Soyuz’s landing rockets to propel the capsule toward Tiangong. Stone then realizes that Kowalski’s reappearance is not real, but has nonetheless given her new strength and the will to live on. She restores the flow of oxygen and uses the landing rockets to navigate toward Tiangong.
Unable to dock the Soyuz with the station, Stone ejects herself via explosive decompression and uses a fire extinguisher as a makeshift thruster to travel to Tiangong. Space debris knocks Tiangong from its trajectory, and it begins rapidly deorbiting. Stone enters the Shenzhou capsule just as Tiangong starts to break up on the upper edge of the atmosphere. As the capsule re-enters the Earth’s atmosphere, Stone hears Mission Control over the radio tracking the capsule. It lands in a lake, but dense smoke due to an electrical fire inside the capsule forces Stone to evacuate immediately. Opening the capsule hatch allows water to rapidly fill the capsule, which sinks, forcing Stone to shed her spacesuit underwater and swim ashore. She takes her first shaky steps on land, in the full gravity of Earth.