I’m all spaced-out now.
Gravity is director Alfonso Cuaron’s visionary masterpiece and the best reason since Avatar to see a 3D film. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney lead in this film about being lost, scared and alone in space.
As a narrative, Gravity couldn’t be simpler. Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney’s veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski are working on a space shuttle, when all hell breaks loose through a failed Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite, causing a chain reaction of hurtling space debris made up of satellite parts. Their shuttle is destroyed and Stone is sent flying into the emptiness of space only for Kowalski to catch her. Their only hope of survival is to make their way slowly to the International Space Station by way of Kowalski’s thruster pack.
The simplicity of the plot actually benefits the film – as does its length, 90 minutes – as it leaves plenty of room for character development and interaction. Throughout the film we learn all there is to know about Stone and (to a lesser extent) Kowalski, with the mission being Stone’s first and the last of Kowalski. As there are only two characters for the majority of the film, a bond really develops on screen as well as off, and you are left worrying about the two of them. But it is the character interaction that holds this film together for the large part, with Kowalski taking the role of a father figure of sorts for Stone who really depends on him for her own survival. It’s a brilliant character study brought to life fantastically by its two leads.
The performances from both actors are superb; George Clooney really does well as the calm father figure counterpart to Sandra Bullock’s screaming, terrified Dr. Stone. Every scene is acted with such grace and dignity, even people who dislike both actors really should leave their prejudices behind.
However, arguably, the acting (as good as it is) falls second to the view. The film starts with a very long shot of the Earth from space; this shot really took my breath away and truly is a sight to behold. The CGI in the film is impeccable, perhaps the best effects I have yet to see in a film. You really do forget that the vast majority of the film is computer generated – it is that classy. These effects are bolstered by the best use of 3D since Avatar; it really adds a daunting sense of depth to vast emptiness of space, sometimes the characters are tiny dots set to a vast backdrop of black emptiness dotted with stars.
The Cinematography of the film is also very good. The use of P.O.V shots really humanises the character of Dr. Ryan Stone and every shot really does look like a piece of art or photograph, there is a fantastic sense of movement and excitement in the more tense scenes and such a knowing stillness in the films quieter moments, Emmanuel Lubezki did a great job flowing shots together with the great musical score by Steven Price.
The film builds up a large amount of tension and could be called a thriller. How the film plays with the slow floating scenes filled with character development through interaction and the tense scenes really gels well and liken the film with Alien – it is that good. Director Alfonso Cuaron (who also co-edited the film with Mark Sanger) has done an amazing job in crafting a unique, tense film filled with strong themes of motherhood throughout.
Dr. Stone is very much played as a little girl, with Kowalski acting as a father-figure and strong hints of maternity are ripe throughout, with a space station acting very much as a womb providing a huge sigh of relief for Dr. Stone and the audience alike.
The film is not without its flaws however. When the plot slows down in the final third it becomes less interesting and at times, you won’t feel as tense about Stone’s situation as the film wants you to be. These are but minor flaws in what is otherwise a film I cannot really fault but, still I don’t seem to have enjoyed it as much as everyone else seems to have done. Perhaps the narrative is too simple, perhaps it is not as exciting as it wants to be? I don’t really know.
Don’t get me wrong, Gravity is a very good film, but it is not the most enjoyable you will see. There are strong links between the film and Life of Pi as well as Alien, but both of those films did better with their plots of isolation and tense situations. Gravity though is a visionary masterpiece and each shot is like poetry in motion, helped by a smart use of 3D, fine eye for detail, fantastic acting, amazing effects, great score and a good script.
Gravity by all means is a masterpiece of visual design, but there is something lacking that I cannot quite put my finger on that would have blasted this film into the upper echelons of the medium.