In the event you don’t have $250,000 to drop on a Virgin Atlantic flight to space, Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) is here to help.
In the filmmaker’s latest picture, which premiered last night at the Toronto Film Festival, viewers experience a 3D rendering of space that’s arguably the most realistic to ever grace the big screen. The movie opens in a black sky illuminated by shimmering constellations as Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is repairing a faulty satellite. Suspended above the glowing curve of Earth, she is joined by her mission commander, Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), who is swimming around the sky via jetpack as a coworker bounces nearby, taking full advantage of zero gravity. (There are three characters with speaking roles in the film, not including the voice of mission control in Houston.)
It’s just another day at the office until mission control reports that debris from an exploded Russian satellite is rapidly approaching. The detritus that arrives, combined with everything else that could possibly go wrong for these three astronauts, makes Apollo 13′s “Houston we have a problem” crisis look like a simple flat tire.
“The theme of the film is adversities,” Cuarón told reporters last night at the film’s premiere, “and the possible outcomes of adversities and rebirth, as in a new knowledge of ourselves.”
In the case of Gravity’s production, life mirrored art. The film cost Warner Brothers approximately $100 million and took four-and-a-half years to complete. Actors reported the shoot was equally harrowing; the majority of the film was shot in a nine-by-nine black box in which the stars were suspended from cables as various objects were hurled around them.
“It was just frustrating, painful and isolating,” Bullock told audiences last night at discussion following the film. “I wanted to kill [producer David Heyman] and Alfonso regularly. So all of your hate, and your anger and your rage, you just give forth in your work and hope it translates onscreen. It was an amazing experience to be able to do as an actor but, I think, more importantly as a woman; [the role] could have very easily gone to a man.”
Canadian astronauts Dr. Roberta Bondar and Chris Hadfield attended the Gravity premiere along with several local dignitaries, and they signed off on the film’s veracity.
“Fortunately, the five months I spent on the space station went way calmer than that,” Hadfield told the premiere’s audience. “The visuals are spectacularly good for this film. I don’t understand how you did that. That was just marvelous to look at. And if I ever fly in space again, I want to fly with Sandra.”
Bondar was equally impressed by the film’s accuracy as well as its message. “I thought the technical part was quite incredible, especially the fidelity of things that dealt with the orbiter, the space shuttle, the Chinese space station and the soyuz [spacecraft] capsules. I thought they had really done their homework,” he said. “Actually looking at the earth from space, it looks like that.”
Bondar, who was the first neurologist in space and holds the prestigious NASA Space Medal, agreed with Bullock that it was an important role for the progress of women in Hollywood, as well as in space and science.
“It’s been 50 years since the first woman went to space and about 10 percent of the people who have been in space are women,” Bondar told Rolling Stone. “I think the strength that Sandra Bullock brings to that role is very important for a role model. If they had a guy do it, it wouldn’t have been nearly as touching for people.”
Bondar continued, “Even when people are tweeting or sending little videos from the Space Station, it’s not the same as seeing someone who is an Academy Award-winning actress taking that role on, and in almost a cheerleading role, so it’s right in your face that women are capable.”