Written by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Running time: 84 minutes
Click Here To Download the Script (PDF)
BASIC STORY MAP
PROTAGONIST: Dr. Ryan Stone, medical engineer on her first space mission
CHARACTERIZATION|MAIN MISBEHAVIOR: Highly skilled scientist | Consumed by despair
EXTERNAL GOAL: To return to Earth
INTERNAL GOAL: To believe in herself
MAIN DRAMATIC CONFLICT: Space
THEMES: Resilience | Rebirth
CENTRAL DRAMATIC QUESTION: Will Ryan return to Earth?
ENDING: Ryan uses the Chinese Space Station’s escape pod and returns to Earth.
ARC: Ryan goes from being consumed by despair to a woman who fights for her life.
A team of astronauts and medical engineer Ryan Stone are repairing the Hubble Telescope when a debris cloud strikes their shuttle. The impact breaks the robotic arm connecting Ryan to the shuttle and uncontrollably spins her into space. She is rescued by Astronaut Matt Kowalksi. They return to the shuttle to find it destroyed and themselves the only survivors. Matt devises a plan to use the nearby International Space Station’s escape pod for safe return to Earth.
Matt and Ryan arrive at the ISS, but find the escape pod damaged. They collide into the ISS and Ryan becomes detached from Matt. She becomes tangled in the damaged escape pod’s parachute strings as Matt floats away. She tries to save him, but he sacrifices himself to save her. With her suit out of oxygen, Matt communicates instructions and Ryan makes it aboard the space station in enough time to save her life.
Ryan makes it to Soyuz, but it gets tangled in its own parachute strings. Ryan detaches it as the second wave of debris strikes. She survives only to find that the Soyuz’ rockets will not fire. Attempting to communicate with Mission Control, she intercepts a man speaking a foreign language. Frustrated with her inability to communicate, she loses hope. Matt appears and tells her that the soft landing jets will fire and transport them to the Chinese Space Station.
Ryan wakes and discovers Matt was a hallucination. She fires the soft landing jets and makes it to the Chinese Space Station and the Shenzhou. A cloud of debris pummels the station and Shenzhou, spinning them violently through the atmosphere. Eventually, she’s able to separate the escape capsule from the Shenzhou. The parachute deploys successfully and the capsule lands in a lake. There, she fights for her life one last time when the capsule sinks. She swims to the surface and makes her way to shore.
FULL STORY MAP
Sequence I: A team of astronauts and medical engineer Ryan Stone are repairing the Hubble Telescope in open space when a debris cloud strikes their shuttle. The impact breaks the robotic arm connecting Ryan to the shuttle and uncontrollably spins her into space.
1 – Titles cards over black:
AT 600 KM ABOVE PLANET EARTH THE TEMPERATURE FLUCTUATES BETWEEN 120 AND -100 DEGREES CELSIUS.
THERE IS NOTHING TO CARRY SOUND, NO OXYGEN, AND NO AIR PRESSURE.
LIFE HERE IS IMPOSSIBLE.
1-2 OPENING IMAGE: Earth.
2-3 – The Explorer Space Shuttle orbits Earth at an altitude of 600 kilometers. DR. RYAN STONE communicates with MISSION CONTROL.
4 – Using a Manned Maneuvering Unit (a.k.a. jetpack), ASTRONAUT MATT KOWALSKI hovers around the shuttle, oversees. Ryan and the Indian engineer SHARIFF DASARI, both tethered to the shuttle, repair the Hubble Telescope.
5 – Mission Control detects Ryan’s heart rate rise. This is her first mission. She is a medical engineer who specializes in hospital scanning systems.
6 – A problem is detected with the communication panel of the telescope. Mission Control reveals the purpose of the mission is to install one of Ryan’s systems into the telescope. Ryan reports that the repair will take an hour.
6 – SPACEWALK RECORD SETUP: As Matt circles the telescope, Mission Control informs him that the repair will not last long enough for him to break the spacewalk record.
Houston trusts Mission Commander Kowalsky realizes that this delay is not of sufficient duration to enable him to surpass Anatoly’s Solovyev’s spacewalking record, as most recent calculations indicate that he will be left...
Seventy-five minutes shy. Never crossed my mind.
7 – Matt assists Ryan with the communication panel. Ryan is new to space, clumsy.
8 – INCITING INCIDENT SETUP: Mission Control reports that missile strike on a satellite has created a cloud of debris orbiting Earth at 20,000 miles per hour.
NORAD reports a satellite has incurred a missile strike. The impact has created a cloud of debris orbiting at 20,000 miles per hour. Current debris orbit does not overlap with your trajectory. We’ll keep you posted on any developments.
10-11 – Mission Control interrupts one of Matt’s stories with an order to immediately abort the mission: Debris from the missile impact has struck other satellites and is driving a debris cloud toward the shuttle.
Debris from the impact has caused a chain reaction, hitting other satellites in its path and creating new debris. Norad reports that orbital and ballistic effects are driving the cloud of debris up toward your altitude. How copy?
Copy all Houston.
Put a bow on it Dr. Stone.
I can’t. If I turn it off now we’ll lose the whole system. She keeps on furiously tweaking.
I’m not going to ask you again.
Not one second. Now! Shut it down! THAT’S AN ORDER!!!
She looks up, sees Matt glaring. Looks him in the eye.
Sorry. I’m sorry. It’s done.
The ROBOTIC ARM slowly withdraws, carrying Ryan back towards the Shuttle.
12 – More satellites are impacted by the debris cloud, including telecommunication satellites: a communication blackout is expected at any moment. Debris begins flying by the shuttle and they lose communication with Mission Control.
13 – INCITING INCIDENT: Explorer is hit by the debris, kills Shariff. The impact breaks the robotic arm connecting Ryan to the shuttle. Matt orders Ryan to detach before she’s carried out too far into space. She detaches and spins uncontrollably. Matt reports that he has lost visual of her.
PROBLEM: Ryan is lost in space.
Sequence II: Matt rescues Ryan. They return to the shuttle to find it destroyed and themselves the only survivors. Matt devises a plan to use the nearby International Space Station’s escape pod for safe return to Earth.
14-17 – Ryan loses communication with Matt and is pushed further into outer space. When she reports a visual of the International Space Station, Matt does not respond.
17 – As Ryan spins to the dark side of Earth, Matt establishes communication and a visual. She reports her oxygen levels, rapidly declining from eight percent and then to seven. He instructs her to calm down, as her panicking is eating up oxygen.
PROBLEM: Ryan is running out of oxygen.
18-19 – Matt rescues Ryan, tethers her to him for a ride to back to the shuttle. Though Mission Control doesn’t reply, he continues reporting to them. Even if they don’t respond doesn’t mean they can’t hear him.
20 – ORBITING DEBRIS CLOUD SETUP: Matt clocks in a 90 minute timer on his watch, asks Ryan to do the same: The debris cloud will orbit the Earth in that time.
PROBLEM: They must act fast or the debris cloud could strike them again in 90 minutes.
Matt reaches for a digital watch strapped to his wrist and sets up the timer for- 90 MINUTES.
Houston clocked that debris at fifty thousand miles per hour. Factoring in our current orbit, I reckon we’ve got 90 minutes before we play duck and cover again.
21-22 – Matt and Ryan retrieve Shariff’s body.
Tentatively Ryan extends her right hand to grab onto Shariff’s body harness. And she sees-
Shariff’s broken helmet. A hole the size of a soft ball pierces through it and has left a tunnel of frozen dried bloody mess.
Ryan’s face is inscrutable. Finally she looks away, but this time something arrests her gaze:
A LAMINATED PHOTOGRAPH floats next to Shariff, tethered to his suit via a small chain. In it, a YOUNG BOY LAUGHS with abandon, happy in the embrace of a man unseen save for his TWO STRONG ARMS. Transfixed, Ryan is unable to look away, something complicated confusing her eyes.
22-23 – END OF ACT ONE TURN: Matt and Ryan carry Shariff’s body to the shuttle. The cabin is destroyed. The SECOND ASTRONAUT’S BODY appears in front of Ryan, crashes into her visor.
Houston, in the blind. To confirm. Mission Specialist Dr. Stone and myself, Mission Commander Matthew Kowalsky, are the sole survivors of STS-157.
PROBLEM: The shuttle is destroyed and Ryan has less than five percent of her oxygen supply remaining. Though not immediate, the debris cloud is also a severe threat.
24 – DECISION: Matt comes up with a plan to make their way to the International Space Station, barely visible in the distance, and use the Soyuz, an escape pod, for re-entry. He notes that his jetpack is running on fumes.
Houston in the blind, this is Kowalsky. Dr. Stone and I have determined to proceed to ISS and use one of their Soyuz for re-entry. ISS if copy, please send rescue mission. Repeat please dispatch rescue mission.
PROBLEM: Matt’s jetpack is low on fuel as is Ryan’s oxygen supply.
Sequence I: Matt and Ryan arrive at the ISS, but find the escape pod damaged. They collide into the ISS and Ryan becomes detached from Matt. She becomes tangled in the damaged escape pod’s parachute strings as Matt floats away. She tries to save him, but he sacrifices himself to save her.
25-28 – On the journey to the ISS, Ryan reports her oxygen supply is at two percent. Matt asks her to talk about home. Ryan reveals she had a daughter that died.
Nobody special? Someone down there, looking up, thinking of you?
Ryan closes her eyes. She remains silent. A silence that can’t hide an unspeakable pain.
I had a daughter.
Her eyes flutter, then open. She is frozen in this moment, as if stunned. Her gaze shifts and finds-
Matt, studying her in his MIRROR.
What was her name?
Sarah... She was four. Stupidest thing- a school trip to the swimming pool. She was playing tag- she slipped, hit her head, and that was it... She loved tag. I’m sure she was laughing.
She looks away, toward Earth. It looks small. Remote.
When I received the call I was driving and ever since that’s what I do. I wake up, I go to work and then I just drive.
Matt finally averts his eyes. He rolls his wrist over, consults the timer, watching the numbers slowly count down.
O2 down to one percent.
29 – As they zero in on the ISS, Ryan’s suit alerts her that the tank is red lining: she’s nearly out of oxygen. Matt assures her that there’s still oxygen in the suit, to remain calm.
30 – They find the ISS evacuated with one Soyuz gone. The remaining Soyuz is damaged with its chute deployed. Re-entry with it is impossible.
30 – A bit off trajectory, Matt and Ryan close in on the ISS. When Ryan asks why they aren’t turning, Matt informs her that his tank only has a thrust or two left.
30-31 – Matt gives the final thrusts of his jetpack’s fuel supply and rockets them towards the ISS. They collide into the station and Ryan becomes detached from the tether. Her foot becomes stuck in the parachute strings of the damaged Soyuz, preventing her from drifting into space.
32-33 – FIRST TRIAL/FIRST CASUALTY: As Matt drifts in her direction, Ryan grabs his tether. His momentum begins pulling her out of the tangle created by the parachute strings. Knowing it will pull them into space and kill them both, Matt detaches himself from the tether and saves Ryan.
Matt’s momentum is now pulling Ryan, dragging her loose from the parachute.
You have to let me go.
You have to.
Those ropes are too loose, I’m pulling you with me. You have to let me go or we both die--
I’m not letting you go! We’re fine.
Her leg slides through the loose rope and she floats further out, being snagged at the last minute by a tether around her foot. (We move from high-angle to low angle two shot). As this happens:
You’re not going anywhere, you’re not going anywhere--
It’s not up to you.
Matt begins to unharness the tether.
Please don’t do this.
Matt has unhooked the tether and is holding it in his hand.
Please don’t do this. Please don’t do this.
You’re going to make it Ryan.
He opens his hand, letting go of the tether, and BEGINS TO FLOAT AWAY.
Relieved of Matt’s pull, the parachute begins to retrieve, pulling Ryan closer to the Station.
I had you! I had you.
Matt drifts away from the Station into the empty space.
PROBLEM: Ryan is alone, without guidance of Matt, the seasoned astronaut.
Sequence II: With her suit out of oxygen, Matt communicates instructions and Ryan makes it aboard the space station in enough time to save her life.
34-36 – Ryan’s CO2 alarm sounds: She is now breathing C02 and about to lose consciousness. Matt walks her through the plan: She’ll enter the damaged Soyuz and fly to the Chinese Space Station Shenzou.
I’ve never flown a Shenzhou--
That doesn’t matter. Its re-entry protocol is identical to the Soyuz’s--
She nods, already looking.
You’ve never flown a Soyuz either.
Only on a simulator.
So then you know.
I crashed it. I--
It’s a Simulator. That’s what it’s designed for.
Every time. I crashed the Simulator every time.
It’s not rocket science. Just point the damn thing at earth and by this time tomorrow you’ll be back in Lake Zurich with one hell of a story to tell. You copy? Ryan. You copy?
I’m going to take the Soyuz and come get you.
No you’re not. I have too much of a head start. That ship already sailed.
No. I’m coming to get you.
Ryan, you’re going to have to learn to let go.
I want to hear you say you’re going to make it.
Ryan is struggling for breath.
Ryan! Say it!
RYAN?I’m... I’m going to make it.
37 – SPACEWALK RECORD PAYOFF: True to character, Matt makes a joke about breaking the spacewalk record.
She looks at Matt’s figure receding.
You wanna know the good news?
I’m going to break Anatoly’s record, and I think mine’s going to stand for a long, long time.
No... I’m coming to get you.
You know, Ryan is a nice name for a girl. Wow, you should see the sun on the Ganges. It’s amazing.
Ryan starts to respond, then falters, watching Matt’s figure grow ever smaller.
THE SAD CROONING of HANK WILLIAMS crackles through the dying radio.
(in a daze)
Only static hisses...
Static again as Matt falls deeper into the distance, becoming lost in a sea of white specks and-
The transmission ends.
38 – Ryan enters the ISS.
39-40 – MIDPOINT: Ryan depressurizes the cabin and breathes oxygen. She takes off her space suit and floats in the cabin’s womb.
Sequence I: Ryan survives a fire aboard the space station and makes it to Soyuz. The Soyuz gets tangled in its parachute strings and Ryan is forced to detach it as the second wave of debris strikes. She survives only to find that the Soyuz’ rockets will not fire.
41 – As Ryan travels through the station, she passes a small electrical fire.
42-43 – Ryan finds the comms and tries to establish communication with Matt, but only hears static. Through a porthole, she stares at the Earth.
The Earth glimmers brightly. A third of the hemisphere is in complete darkness. Her FACE REFLECTED in the glass is SUPERIMPOSED over the EARTH.
Her eyes glisten briefly, but she fights it back. Then she pulls herself together, and begins reporting-
Houston in the blind.
The way Matt would have done it-
This is Mission Specialist Ryan Stone reporting from the ISS... All communication with Mission Commander Matthew Kowalsky has been lost. Radio transmission is absent. Visual is nonexistent.
To confirm, I--Ryan Stone--am the sole survivor of STS-157.
Ryan hovers by the porthole, looking hopeless.
All is silent save for the RADIO static and the hum of the Space Station.
44-46 – POWERFUL EXTINGUISHER SETUP: Fire alarms sound off. Ryan attempts to put out the fire with an extinguisher and is briefly knocked unconscious. The fire engulfs the station as she regains consciousness, barely makes it to the safety of Soyuz in time.
47 – Ryan successfully detaches the Soyuz from the station.
48-49 – The Soyuz gets tangled in its parachute strings and narrowly avoids collision with the station. Ryan gains control of the pod, but remains stuck.
50-52 – ORBITING DEBRIS CLOUD PAYOFF 1: Donning another spacesuit, Ryan exits the Soyuz and attempts to detach it from the parachute. The second wave of debris begins passing and she rushes to finish the job.
53-54 – The ISS is hit by the debris. Ryan hangs on to the Soyuz as it breaks free of the station.
54-57 – Ryan re-enters the Soyuz and attempts to fly the damaged pod toward the Chinese station Tiangong, but its rockets will not fire. The pod floats in space, virtually motionless.
PROBLEM: Without the Soyuz operational, Ryan will die.
Sequence II: Attempting to communicate with Mission Control, Ryan intercepts a man speaking a foreign language. Frustrated with her inability to communicate, she loses hope. Matt appears and tells her that the soft landing jets will fire and transport them to the Chinese Space Station.
58-62 – The temperature has dropped inside the cabin. Attempting to reach Mission Control, Ryan intercepts a man in a jovial mood speaking a foreign language. She calls him Aningang. Frustrated with her inability to communicate, she loses hope.
No one will mourn me. No one will pray for my soul. Will you mourn me, Aningang? Is it too late to say a prayer? I’d say one for myself, but I have never prayed in my life... no one ever taught me how...
The tune is lyrical and soothing, tinged with a touch of melancholy.
No one ever taught me how...
Ryan listens to Aningang’s melody and smiles softly, closing her eyes.
Ryan’s face grows slack as she drifts toward unconsciousness, buoyed along on Aningang’s sad soulful song. Then...
...a SPUTTERING CRY cuts through the static. A BABY. yan’s eyes pop open.
A baby. There’s a baby with you.
A beat. Aningang stops singing, speaking in a soft voice:
You are singing to your baby? Is that a lullaby? That’s so sweet!
Ryan is transfixed, listening to the gentle gurgle of the baby as Aningang coos to it, then begins to SING again.
I used to sing to my baby too.
Painful memories flash before her, haunting her. Ryan’s lump in her throat is washed away by a gentle sob.
I hope I see her soon.
63 – Ryan listens to Aningang sing to the baby. She opens a valve on a panel and the oxygen inside the cabin begins to drop. She turns out the lights and closes her eyes.
Ryan closes her eyes, simply listening to the lullaby as it grows fainter...
(growing ever drowsier)
That’s nice. Keep singing, Aningang, just like that. Sing me to sleep. I’ll sleep and sleep and sleep. Sing to me, Aningang... sing...sing....
The transmission grows fainter...
...and then is...
64 – Tapping on the cabin porthole wakes her: it’s Matt. He opens the hatch and all the cabin oxygen is sucked into the vacuum of space. He sits next to her and pressurizes the cabin.
65 – END OF ACT TWO TURN: Though there is no fuel, Matt tells Ryan that the soft landing jets can help them get to Tiangong, the Chinese Space Station. She argues that she won’t be able to do it.
66-67 – Matt encourages Ryan to fight for her life.
Listen you want to go back or do you want to stay here? I get it, it’s nice up here, you can just shut down all the systems turn out all the lights, and just close your eyes and tune out everybody.
Matt starts flipping through buttons on the console, turning the cabin lights off.
There’s nobody up here who can hurt you, it’s safe. Then what’s the point in going on, what’s the point of living?
When the cabin is in darkness, he turns and looks at Ryan.
Your kid died, doesn’t get any rougher than that, but still it’s a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go that you’ve gotta just get on with it, sit back enjoy the ride. You have to start living life, Ryan.
Ryan is having trouble keeping her eyes open.
How did you get here?
Ryan, you have to learn to let go ... Hey?
Ryan is almost sound asleep.
Ryan is asleep.
It’s time to go home.
Her eyes snap open.
Her gaze shifts. The flask is floating in front of her. But no Matt. She turns. THE CABIN IS EMPTY. She turns back.
Sequence I: Ryan wakes and discovers Matt was a hallucination. She fires the soft landing jets and is sent on a trajectory toward the Chinese Space Station.
67-70 – Ryan wakes and Matt is gone. She turns a valve and oxygen fills the cabin. She grabs a manual and walks through the soft landing jet processes. Though he isn’t there, she still talks to him, asks him to tell her daughter that she’s not quitting.
Listen to me Matt. You’re going to see a girl with brown hair. She’s Sarah, her hair is probably a mess. That’s okay, she doesn’t like to brush it.
She looks out of the porthole, down at Earth.
Tell her mommy found her red shoe. She was so upset about that shoe Matt, but tell her it was right under the bed.
She turns back to the console and places her finger over one of the buttons.
You give her a big hug and a kiss for me and tell her mamma misses her. Tell her she’s my little angel and that she makes me so proud, so so so proud, and that I promise I’ll try and make her proud too. You tell her that I’m not quitting, that I’m going to keep fighting. You tell her I love her Matt... I love her so much.
71 – Ryan fires the soft landing jets and the capsule is sent on a trajectory to Tiangong. Once there, she observes the station losing altitude, close to entering Earth’s atmosphere. She doesn’t have much time.
PROBLEM: Tiangong is losing altitude, close to entering Earth’s atmosphere. Ryan must exit the Soyuz to catch Tiangong before it’s too late.
72-73 – POINT OF NO RETURN & POWERFUL EXTINGUISHER PAYOFF: Ryan grabs a fire extinguisher, unlatches the emergency exit. The porthole is shot off the capsule and she is sucked into the vacuum of space. She uses the extinguisher to thrust herself towards Tiangong as it descends into the atmosphere and begins burning up.
73-74 – ORBITING DEBRIS CLOUD PAYOFF 2: Ryan grabs hold of the station and makes her way inside as the third passing of the debris cloud begins hurling debris at Tiangong.
Sequence II: Ryan makes her way through the station to the Shenzhou. A cloud of debris pummels the station and Shenzhou, spinning them violently through the atmosphere. Eventually, she’s able to separate the escape capsule from the Shenzhou. The parachute deploys successfully and the capsule lands in a lake. There, she fights for her life one last time when the capsule sinks. She swims to the surface and makes her way to shore.
75 – Tiangong’s disintegration intensifies as Ryan hurries for the Shenzhou, an escape vessel similar to the Soyuz. She looks on the control panel and panics: all of the buttons have Chinese ideograms on them.
76-77 – Ryan manages to power the Shenzhou. Alarms ring as she proceeds further, but she’s unable to understand warning recordings, as they’re all in Mandarin. Eventually, a countdown appears: She started undocking process. She communicates with Houston…
She raises her voice to be heard over the GROWING RUMBLE.
This is Mission Specialist Ryan Stone reporting from the Shenzhou. I’m about to undock from the Tiangong and I have a bad feeling about this mission.
She presses a new button and the system goes to green. And on the MONITOR a COUNTDOWN appears.
Reminds me of a story, Houston--
She reacts to a bad shake of the cabin.
Okay, you know what, Houston? Never mind the story...
She looks around as the cabin starts shaking even harder.
It’s getting hotter in here.
She watches the COUNTDOWN on the MONITOR- 3:59... 3:58...
The way I figure it, there’s only two possible outcomes--
Ryan keeps her eyes fixed on the countdown. Raises her voice to compete with the rising chaos...
I either make it down in one piece and I’ll have one hell of a story to tell...
And now the noise and the shake are nearing their peak...
...Or I burn up in the next ten minutes.
Ryan smiles, flips the safety lid of a button open.
Whichever way it goes, no harm no foul.
As the cabin RATTLES VIOLENTLY.
Because either way--
She closes her eyes, puts her finger over the button.
It’ll be one hell of a ride.
Ryan presses the button.
78 – Large pieces of debris collide with the Station and it comes apart, spinning and burning towards Earth. Inside the Shenzhou, Ryan pushes a red button that separates the cabin from the rest of the vessel. The metal of the escape pod burns red hot as it pushes through the atmosphere. It spins violently.
79 – The capsule’s aerodynamics slow down the spinning and position it nose up. A small piece of debris nicks the capsule, tears one of its outer shields. Inside, a panel comes off a smoke begins to fill the cabin.
79 – In the lower atmosphere, the capsule has left all the burning debris behind. Its parachute deploys successfully, but the cabin is filling up with smoke from an electrical fire. Ryan struggles to breathe.
80 – The capsule lands in a lake. Ryan unstraps herself, coughs from the smoke.
81 – Through the smoke, Ryan manages to open the hatch, but water begins rushing in. The flow is so strong it keeps her inside. The capsule sinks and rests on the lake floor. She takes a large breath from a small packet of air and exits. Her suit begins filling up with water. She frees herself from the suit and swims for the surface.
82-83 – Ryan makes it to the surface and begins to swim on her back, watches pieces of debris pass through the atmosphere. She crawls to the shore and begins laughing.
84 – CLIMAX: Ryan stands up on the shore and walks away.
Ecstasy overcomes Ryan and-
Joyful laughter fills her body.
SHE IS ALIVE.
She PLANTS HER PALMS against the ground and- With an effort, she pushes herself up.
SHE FEELS HER WEIGHT, and manages to rise to her hands and knees like a four-legged mammal.
And she STANDS UP.
ONE FOOT FALLS heavily on the ground. It sinks into the mud and then-
Ryan’s FEET are solidly planted on the mud.
One foot moves forward and lands on more solid ground, unstable, coping with the weight. And then-
The other foot follows as-
SHE BEGINS TO WALK ON PLANET EARTH, laughing.
SHE IS FREE.
84 – THE END.
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