Top Film Industry Stories of 2013: #1

Gravity Defies

By David Mumpower

January 12, 2014

Is this bad? This seems bad.

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The International Space Station cost approximately $160 billion to build and sustain over the years. Sandra Bullock took one job there, and the entire place was destroyed. Hopefully, she employed the ol’ Homer Simpson defense, “It’s my first day.” Then again, she could have blamed her buddy, George Clooney. If he hadn’t spent so much time jet-packing around the space shuttle, many lives could have been saved.

No matter who receives the blame during the countless impending international tribunals, the spectacle of watching multiple space-worthy vessels destroyed is an event that will leave a lasting impression on the film industry. Stating the obvious, something you have probably known since early October, there was no defying Gravity this year. It is undeniably the biggest Film Industry Story of 2013.

What makes Gravity worthy of such acclaim? Let’s start with the basics. At its core, the Alfonso Cuarón production is an exercise in minimalism similar to Duncan Jones’ Moon. Ignoring the differences in budget (Gravity cost a factor of 20 more than Moon), the casting style is similar. Moon featured only a handful of actors while asking Sam Rockwell to appear in almost every sequence. With Gravity, Sandra Bullock is onscreen for almost the entirety of the film. Without her, the star of the movie would be the emptiness of space, and I mention that because even with America’s Sweetheart in the lead role, the void is still lurking in every shot as an unwelcome co-star.


The premise of the movie evokes the tagline of the Ridley Scott 1979 classic, Alien. “In Space, no one can hear you scream.” The events of Gravity focus upon Dr. Riley Stone, a woman who has a very bad day. Her initial mission aboard the Space Shuttle comes unraveled when a spacewalk goes awry. Debris from a destroyed missile heads her direction, and it has attained a velocity that makes bullets seem slower than molasses.

By now, everyone reading this is well aware of what happens next. Dr. Stone struggles for survival with only Clooney’s Matt Kowalski to guide her. And he is more consumed with breaking the standing record for space flight. Stone is largely alone in space as debris attempts to kill her.

The story of Gravity is no different than any other solo survival films such as Cast Away, 127 Hours and Buried. The key selling point is that all of the characters involved in those movies at least have the reliability of nature in their favor. In space, every law of physics that people are trained since birth to understand is fundamentally altered. Any cut in a suit, loss of oxygen or movement in a direction away from a man-made vessel is potentially fatal.

We know about all of this danger because the two main characters in the movie both experience their fair share of each form of jeopardy. Gravity is a calculated, manipulative attempt to induce more fear than any science fiction movie has ever managed in 90 minutes before. And it succeeds to a heroic degree.

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