A group of US astronauts, that include Sandra Bullock’s and George Clooney’s characters, are on a mission working to upgrade a telescope (I think it was Hubble), when the Russians decide to blow up an old satellite in space, but this routine event goes horribly wrong and sends the debris of the satellite into other satellites, which destroys them as well, creating further debris. All this space debris comes for our astronauts and creates havoc in space. It also knocks out communication with NASA on earth. With their ship destroyed, communications with earth off, fellow crew members killed by this space debris, and more debris missiles heading their way, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s characters must make it to the International Space Station in order to escape back to earth.
You will probably notice I didn’t bother to share the names of the characters that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play. The reason for this relates to the film’s biggest weakness, in my opinion. It felt like I was watching both actors play the same roles they normally do out in space. George Clooney’s character constantly shares a bunch of anecdotes about his ex-wife and Mardi gras that I swear I’ve heard in other George Clooney movies or at least something similar. This could’ve been a George Clooney character from a thousand other movies! Sandra Bullock, too, just seems like a thousand other characters Sandra Bullock has played and is mostly generic, with some forced attempts at emotional depth by giving her a dead child that she doesn’t want to talk about and basically doesn’t talk about, except for two contrived instances in the film.
However, these characters are sufficient enough for the movie’s real strength: an original disaster film in the vein of Poseidon Adventures, but in outer space. Sure, we’ve seen terror in space before usually involving monstrous aliens bursting out of people’s stomachs, but this film attempts to do it with a realistic disaster. This film uses the outer space setting to its advantages with the characters bouncing around the exterior of space stations and careening out of control through space, fearful for their survival, and each time it finally looks like they are safe something new goes wrong! After watching it you’ll never look at space the same way again. The film’s strength is the way it reinvents the disaster film by setting it in space and showing how terrifying space can be when technology fails.