Log Line

A medical engineer on her first space mission attempts to survive in the wake of a series of catastrophic events that threaten her life.

Overview

Medium: Film

Writer(s): Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón,

Director(s): Alfonso Cuarón

Production Co.(s): Warner Bros. , Esperanto Filmoj, Heyday Films

When we first meet Dr. Ryan Stone, the main character of the film Gravity, she is spacewalking in orbit 600 kilometers above the surface of the Earth, working to install a communications upgrade on the Hubble space telescope, which is temporarily attached to the space shuttle Explorer. She is accompanied on her excursion (but not in her installation efforts) by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski, who is on his final space mission and using a jet pack to wander around the shuttle/telescope assembly and increase his total spacewalk time—and by mission specialist Shariff, who is at work in the shuttle bay.

Not long after we meet Ryan and her colleagues, they receive a dire warning from NASA Mission Control in Houston that the exploded remains of an intentionally destroyed Russian satellite have triggered a cascading series of satellite destruction that has created a fast-moving debris field—which threatens their safety.

The call to abort the mission comes too late, however, and before they can reenter the shuttle, the debris field hits with devastating effects, punching through the shuttle and severing the retrieval arm to which Ryan is attached. And when she unstraps herself from the arm, she is sent spinning helplessly away into space.

Thus begins her harrowing struggle to stay alive in the cold, unforgiving vacuum of space—a struggle aided partly by Matt but most of which she is forced to manage on her own. And the small oases of respite that she finds in each phase of her journey prove ephemeral at best, forcing her into the next phase and the next as she strives to achieve the ultimate salvation of a safe return to Earth.

Some of her crises are due to a scarcity of resources like breathable air, others arise from the difficulties of operating in zero gravity, and still others are caused by the debris field itself, which strikes with menacing regularity every hour and a half.

Analysis

The primary clue to Ryan's vector of intent may be found by means of the "vector of intent thought experiment" described in Chapter 6 of Discovering the Soul of Your Story. Specifically, the condition of value that Ryan seeks in the wake of the inciting incident, when the debris field strikes the first time, is nothing less than the security of refuge on the surface of the Earth, where she is out of harms way. And if she were granted that condition of value magically (by the Story God) at any point, the story would be stopped in its tracks, and she would feel relieved.

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