# You Don't Know What You've Got (Gravity)
Many things are easy to take for granted; air, perhaps, most of all. To a normal person in a normal environment, it's hard to convey how important it is. And yet *Gravity* manages it so well that I walked out quite literally gasping.
The other thing missing is people. This is an intensely solitary film; Stone (Bullock) and Kolawski (Clooney) are cut off first from everyone else, and then from each other. While the film has to use a few tricks to let them reveal their thoughts through conversation, some of the most intense moments come from Ryan talking to an inanimate piece of equipment, or not talking at all. The film's actually quite soft on the silence and beauty of space - despite the opening text, there's plenty of orchestral background music, and the Earth mostly stays in the background (indeed, for its most beautiful sunrise *Gravity* ignores the rules and tells us without showing). This is probably the most detailed, realistic space movie to date (for all the issues of seeing high-velocity debris before it hits you), but the actual space part feels paradoxically understated - or maybe I just wanted more.
What is overdone is the plot - in particular the fire that occurs towards the end. Coming hot on the heels of one disaster and right before another, and with the one sequence of unfortunately fake-looking special effects, it just feels thoroughly gratuitous - particularly when contrast with the quiet, contemplative scenes we've had in the first half of the movie. The ending also had a similar feel, though here there are more reasonable grounds for the events of the film - landing in the wrong terrain may be less spectacular than a spacecraft disintegrating, or crashing, but it can be just as deadly.
And I was forcibly reminded that Hollywood still can't manage a respectful treatment of atheists - it's always "I turned away from God after my wife died, and now that it's a moment of crisis I'm turning back". Even so, I loved Ryan's little pre-reentry speech - not the dignified acceptance of death that we often praise, but the fury, the raw desire to keep on living, or failing that, go down fighting.
I read *Moondust: In Search of the Men who Fell to Earth* recently, which I also highly recommend. What struck me most as I read was the sheer *audacity* of the Apollo programme; you self-important apes think you can go *how many* kilometers? And you're gonna do this in what's basically a *ball of tin foil*? And yet it worked - and even in the case where it didn't, *Apollo 13* - our finest hour, as the movie puts it - we were able to keep everyone alive. In a way that's the easiest criticism to level at *Gravity* - that *Apollo 13* was able to show just as much drama and heroism in what was largely a factual account.
For the older generation that's probably true. But for people my age the *Apollo* program is ancient history, as remote as - well, the moon. The shuttle and the HST are the spacecraft we grew up watching; the ISS is there now, and the Chinese space station featured is scheduled to go up in a couple of years' time. If all it accomplishes is to bring home the joy, the wonder, the majesty of spaceflight to a new generation, then *Gravity* will have been more than worthwhile.
And there's something to be said, with tensions over militarized space on the rise, for a story in which an American and a Russian need turn to a Chinese craft for rescue. That, perhaps, is the real message behind the scene with Ryan talking on the radio - that even with no common language, hundreds of kilometers apart, in the most hostile environment imaginable, we're still all human, and our similarities are worth more than our differences. Written out like that, it's the kind of sappy nonsense I hate. But *Gravity* doesn't tell us this, it shows us.
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