MOTW: Five Memorable Quotes from the Movie "Gravity"

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Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone is on her first Space Shuttle mission accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky, who is commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk, debris from a satellite crashes into the space shuttle Explorer, leaving it mostly destroyed, and stranding them in space with limited air.
Photo Credit: Warner Bros.
February 5th, 2014

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"Gravity" is the Oscar-nominated film that tells the story of the struggle of Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical professional on her first space mission to repair the Hubble telescope, to survive a disaster. While she and the rest of the shuttle crew are completing their task under the supervision of Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a seasoned space veteran, they learn that a growing cloud of debris that began forming after Russian missiles destroyed a satellite is making its way toward them and they must race to abort their mission. The film's director and writer, Alfonso Cuaron, won the 2014 Golden Globe for Best Director and is a 2014 OSCAR nominee in the same category. It is also no surprise that a screenplay as intense as Cuaron's contains several memorable quotes. Before continuing, however, please be aware that the following quotes and their explanations contain spoilers. Read at your own risk if you have not yet seen the movie.

"Half of North America just lost their Facebook." - Commander Matt Kowalski

Commander Matt Kowalski, as a somewhat witty, seasoned astronaut embarking on his final mission, frequently uses humor to calm the frightened Dr. Stone and help her focus. The quote directly references a growing debris field orbiting the earth. The humorous tone of the quote makes light of the increasing severity of the situation.

"Do you copy? Please copy. Please." - Dr. Ryan Stone

Sandra Bullock is a rookie astronaut sent drifting into space when she ejects herself from the arm to which she'd been attached while repairing the Hubble telescope. She is floating alone in deep space, disoriented and frightened, and communication with Mission Command in Houston has been cut off as a result of the damage caused by flying debris. The line is particularly weighty because it highlights the terror of finding oneself floating uncontrollably through space cut off from all communication.

"You'll see a little girl, with brown hair, lots of knots. She didn't like to brush it. You tell her I found her red shoe. She was so worried about that red shoe. And it was under the bed the whole time." - Ryan Stone to Commander Kowalski

Commander Kowalski must detach himself from Sandra Bullock in order for her to have a chance to survive. If he does not, they will both die. Commander Kowalski's action is akin to suicide, since they are attempting to board a vessel that is their last hope of survival, and detachment means setting himself aimlessly afloat in space and making rescue impossible. Additionally, the audience has recently learned that Bullock's character still grieves over the death of her young daughter. In giving Kowalski a message for her daughter, she reinforces the hope of an afterlife for both of them.

"Your kid died, it doesn't get any rougher than that. It's still a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go, then you just gotta get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride, you gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey, Ryan, it's time to go home." - Commander Matt Kowalski to Dr. Stone

Early in the movie, Bullock's character tells the story about her daughter's death of which she learned while she was driving. She confesses that, ever since, she has been driving. When Dr. Stone is unable to power up the vessel in which she is supposed to journey back to earth, she essentially gives up and resigns herself to die. Commander Kowalski returns and reassures her that her life is not over yet. The line is both a literal reference to fleeing as far away from her daughter's death as she could get, even into the heavens, and a figurative one in which home and earth are synonymous. It is not her time to die. The line takes on further significance when, after Bullock lands in the water and, like primitive life making its way out of the waters, crawls onto land and then stands before walking away.

"Either way, it's going to be one hell of a ride." - Dr. Ryan Stone

This quote is a direct reference to the previous in which Commander Kowalski tells Dr. Stone to "enjoy the ride." She has rallied and figured out how to piggyback the vessel she is piloting into an earthbound field of debris. There is a risk that the vessel will ignite into flames upon re-entry if conditions aren't precise, however. Dr. Stone is acknowledging that she has resigned herself to "enjoy the ride" of unpredictability rather than continue driving the same, stable life path.

Clever, crisp dialogue like these quotes is a major contributor to the film's box office and award circuit success. The script makes efficient use of time in a movie in which each minute, both literally and figuratively, counts by giving a lot of its more clever lines both a literal and figurative meaning as well.