- "I get it, it's nice up here. You could just shut down all the systems, turn down all the lights, just close your eyes and tune out everybody. There's nobody up here that can hurt you. It's safe. What's the point of going on? What's the point of living? Your kid died, it doesn't get any rougher than that. Still, it's 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."
- ―Matt Kowalski during Ryan Stone's hallucination
|Portrayed by||George Clooney|
Before the events of the film, Kowalski mentioned that whenever he was in space, he would look down at Texas and think about his wife looking up at him. However, all was not well at home. When he returned to Earth, Kowalski discovered that his wife was having an affair with a lawyer. Later, Kowalski got a divorce from his wife, but it seemed that he still had gumption despite his wife cheating on him, although he decided to retire.
Kowalski loved country music and had an obnoxious sense of humor, but he was a genuinely good person.
While on Dr. Ryan Stone's first space shuttle mission aboard the Space Shuttle called the Explorer, she was accompanied by Kowalski who was commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope, Mission Control in Houston warned the team about a defunct Russian satellite self-destructing which caused a chain reaction forming a cloud of space debris. Mission Control ordered that the mission should be aborted, but shortly after, communications with Mission Control are lost, though the two continued to transmit into the blind, hoping that the ground crew could still hear them.
The debris traveling at over 50,000 miles per hour struck the Explorer and detached Stone from the shuttle, leaving her tumbling through space attached to an arm. Kowalski ordered her to detach from the arm before she was carried too far and Stone did so, but was ejected into the void of outer space, tumbling around attached to nothing. Kowalski soon recovered Stone and they made their way back to the space shuttle. They discovered that the shuttle suffered from catastrophic damage and the crew was dead from exposure to the vacuum. They used Kowalski's thruster pack to make their way to the International Space Station which was in orbit only about 100 km (60 mi) away. Kowalski calculated that they had 90 minutes before the debris field completed an orbit and threatened them again.
En route to the ISS, the two discussed about Stone's life back home and the death of her daughter along with her first name which she responded "Dad wanted a boy". As they approached the substantially damaged, but still operational ISS, they saw that it's crew evacuated in one of it's two Soyuz modules and the parachute of the other capsule was accidentally deployed, rendering it useless for returning to Earth. Kowalski suggested that the remaining Soyuz should be used to travel to the nearby Chinese space station called the Tiangong and board one of it's modules to return safely to Earth.
Out of air and maneuvering power, the two tried to grab onto the ISS as they flew by. Stone's leg got entangled in the Soyuz's parachute cords and she was able to grab a strap on Kowalski's suit. Despite Stone's protests, Kowalski detached himself from the tether to save her from drifting away with him and she was pulled back toward the ISS. As Kowalski floated away, he radioed her additional instructions and encouragement, turning his music back on and admiring the Sun on the Ganges. Eventually, Kowalski's messages stopped and Dr. Stone realized that he died due to a lack of oxygen from a combination of carbon dioxide poisoning and oxygen deprivation. Although she desperately attempted to get him to tell her a story, he did not respond.
Later in the film, while adrift in the Soyuz Capsule, after a brief communication with a Greenlandic Inuit fisherman and listening to him cooing a baby, Dr. Stone resigned herself to being stranded and shut the oxygen supply down of the cabin in order to commit a painless suicide via hypoxia. As she began to lose consciousness, Kowalski appeared outside and entered the capsule. Scolding her for giving up, he told her to use the Soyuz's landing rockets to propel the capsule toward the Tiangong. Stone realized that Kowalski's reappearance was merely a hallucination in her oxygen-deprived state and Kowalski never appeared after all. Stone realized that her consciousness manifested her memories from training in Kowalski, allowing her to survive.
Kowalski sacrificed himself to save Stone, but in the end, he achieved his goal of beating Anatoly Solovyev's longest spacewalking record.
- It's not up to you.
- Beautiful, don't you think?
- Don't you think that the world is a bloodly beautiful place.
- Houston, i have a bad feeling about this mission.
- Ryan stone is the love of my life and the i would have kissy kissy with her everyday.
- Houston, in the blind. This is Kowalski. Our current location is approximately 900 meters out from the Explorer. Dr. Stone and I would like to retrieve the body of Mission Specialist Shariff and return it to Shuttle. Am I a go to retrieve? Roger that.
- Illinois. Central time zone. That makes it roughly... 8 PM right now. What are the good people of Lake Zurich doing at 8 o’clock in the evening?
- Houston in the blind we have visual of the ISS. Station must have been evacuated because first Soyuz is missing. Second Soyuz exhibits surface damage and chute has deployed. It's use as escape pod for re-entry to Earth is impossible.
- Half of North America just lost their Facebook.
- Here's hopin' you have a hell of an insurance policy, Houston. The damages to Explorer... are catastrophic. Commence search for survivors.
- Here we go! Careful on the edges!
- Grab a hold! Grab anything!
- Call Anatoly and tell him he's been bumped!
- You're the genius, I just drive the bus.
- 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?
- Unstrap. Look, we need to get the hell out of here!
- No, don't wait for us! You suck and you're gonna get us fricking killed!
- Astronaut off structure! Dr. Stone is off structure!
- Dr. Stone, detach. You must detach! If you don’t detach that arm is going to carry you too far! Listen to my voice! You need to focus! I’m losing visual of you! In a few seconds I won’t be able to track you! I can't see you anymore! Do it now!
- Ryan, you're going to have to learn to let go.
- So, now that we have some distance between us- you’re attracted to me, aren’t you?
- You know, Ryan is a nice name for a girl. Wow, you should see the sun on the Ganges. It's amazing.
- I believe in fairies, i do, i do!
- In the original script, he was much younger and his name was Kowalsky.
- Every scene Kowalski is in, he is listening to Angels are Hard to Find by Hank Williams, Jr.
- The scene where Ryan hallucinates Kowalski was George Clooney's idea.