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Phil Mellows is a freelance journalist living in Brighton



Directed by Alfonso Cuaron (2013)

Apart from, of course, holding various bits of space hardware and people in orbit, gravity doesn't make its appearance in Gravity until the very end when you feel its sucking power, and you also feel that it's right. That human beings and gravity belong together.

For the other 99% of the film we've been weightless, floating along with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a remarkably immersive experience. For long periods I was holding my breath. Not just because of the suspense but because Bullock keeps losing her air, and we're right there with her.

Gravity has challenged my scepticism about 3D cinema. The technology is used subtly, sparingly, imperceptibly drawing you into the action. There are a few set-piece stunts, and one of them was wonderful, a teardrop balloning towards you until you can see Bullock's face refracted there, the bubble of liquid mimicking a space helmet.

Bullock, on her first shuttle mission as medical engineer Ryan Stone, is crying because it looks like she's going to die, or possibly because she's had such a disappointing life. She was on a space walk,  trying to fix something, when a whole load of satellite debris hit and she, together with George Clooney as old-hand astronaut Matt Kowalski, are sent spinning into the nothingness.

Except nothingness is quite crowded these days, as the Americans and the Russians and the Chinese  have chucked so much clutter up there. It's a problem, and it's also the solution, as the only way back down is to hop from US shuttle to Russian shuttle to Chinese shuttle, a modest little internationalist statement going on there. There are no passports in space, you see.

Clooney's character (perhaps Clooney himself, I suspect) is one of those really annoying people who are, nevertheless, quite useful to have around. He gets the best lines, like when he's giving Bullock some instructions on flying a Soyuz and tells her “it's not rocket science” when, for once, it actually is rocket science.

Even when death seems imminent he insists on chatting her up. It isn't clear whether he's incredibly brave or incredibly shallow. Or both.

Bullock has revealed to him that she's got no family waiting for her on Earth, yet there's still something pulling her there, some visceral survival instinct overriding the despair.

Let's call it being human. Let's call it gravity.

November 21, 2013

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