The film itself was pretty damned good. We were in the 3D screening, and it's fair to say that if you want to see how well 3D can work, this is the best I've seen: it's stunning. Sound is done well too - the film makers have really thought about the fact that sound doesn't carry through a vacuum, so there are parts where it is totally silent.
(This made the slightly late arrival of one viewer particularly noticeable.)
The music was a bit overloud, but that could be fixed by turning down the volume.
But what about the content?
Well, this is going on my Hugo nomination list (as and when that opens). It's the best space-based film I've seen yet. It's very much a single person film, and Sandra Bullock shows just how flexible she is as an actor. We already know how well she does kooky comedy, and she's also done action, but this is different: it's serious, her character is the only survivor from a five-man shuttle mission, and her chances of survival are remote. At about halfway through the film, she's given up and is literally sitting back waiting for death. And then from somewhere comes a determination to fight all the way, to not give up after all, no matter how pointless it all seems. And the anger when the universe seems to be conspiring against all her efforts seems real.
Bullock truly deserves her Academy Award nomination for this.
There are some phony physics moments in it, mostly to do with Hollywood timing.
- The initial disaster — a Kessler syndrome situation — would not develop that fast.
- The 90 minute collision period is dodgy, assuming that it would happen once per orbit whereas a debris ring would be crossed twice per orbit. (But I only realised this later, and there may be some orbit which did permit a 90 minute period)
- The closeness of the Hubble, the ISS and the Chinese station is unlikely. (We're in a slightly alternate universe anyway, what with a Shuttle not from the original fleet)
- When George Clooney's character dies heroically, that whole bit requires some force dragging him and her from the ISS when there is no such force.
- Fire in zero-G actually has extreme difficulty keeping going at all.
So, I'll give it 90% right, and concede that I'm not sure how I'd fix the issues I've mentioned without breaking the story. The inside/outside helmet view switches make for a beautiful dramatic device, something that wouldn't work in other films but that does here. This is a film that I'll be wanting to see again.
It totally fails the Bechdel test, but then we've only got two actors in it whose faces we see. Like Pacific Rim, it's an example of how while that test is a good rule of thumb, it's not infallible.
And then, because the film was only about 90 minutes long, and 3D showings have fewer ads, we wandered downstairs to Frankie and Benny and had (in my case) coffee and drinks with K&M and chatted for a while.