It seems rare to become fully involved and lost in a film; it’s a true testament to the filmmaker if such a notion is achieved. Nowadays, most films are formulaic and pandering with little flair to enchant the audience. It’s refreshing, then, when a film comes along that harkens back to the nature of movies: to engage the senses, to see new environments, to connect with the subject matter. It is a privilege to view a cinematic masterpiece that can achieve those concepts with the technological advances of the time. Gravity does all of this with a mind-crippling intense foray into the persistence of life.
Filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón’s film, at its simplest, is a story about a pair of astronauts struggling to survive an accident in space. Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a person made reluctant by the circumstances of life, who is sent to space to install revolutionary scanning software on a satellite. Juxtaposed at her side is George Clooney as Matt Klowaski, a charismatic space cowboy eternally grateful to life’s happenstances, who is thrilled at the chance to possibly break the spacewalk record. Faced with an astronomically frightening situation, the pair fight, bite and literally claw their way to safety.
In this, the film is a story about strife from the insignificant to the substantial, from the personal challenges to the metaphorical meaning of life. Many elements of the story and various key shots allude to the safety of small spaces, such as the womb, compared with the agoraphobia that comes from the vast openness of space. It reveals that a seemingly minimalistic story is something much more deep, rich and beautiful: the will to live.
Subtle, yet powerful sound use accentuates the story. For instance, communication over the astronaut’s radios and mission control are shown in seemingly realistic fashion with all the static and feedback we’ve heard from actual transmissions. Depending on the dynamic point of view of the camera as it flows seamlessly inside and outside of the astronauts’ helmets, the sound may be a muffled echo or a crisp broadcast. The film adheres to the well-known sound vacuum of space, but the soundtrack and the audio over the astronauts’ radios perfectly align to raise heart-pounding tension. It’s a stellar mix and it shows that the filmmakers took great care to engage all of the audience’s senses.
Additionally, and maybe most importantly, there are some mesmerizing shots that meld beautiful directing, cinematography, and some of the best special effects shots ever mastered. It is rare that I recommend anything in 3D, as I feel many films misuse the purpose of such technology, but Gravity is a stunning example of how 3D can enhance the viewing experience. The use of it here makes sense and this film deserves to be seen in all of its magnificent glory. I would be highly surprised, and honestly slightly disappointed, if Gravity does not receive a slew of technical nominations come awards season; it is well-deserving.
Finally, I would like to address the actors’ performances. Even though Clooney and Bullock were second, and even third or forth, pick for their respective roles, their previous portfolios and dynamic chemistry make them enjoyable to watch. Bullock, who is no stranger to playing up anxious and tense roles, has a diverse career as the “every woman” in “every scenario” making her character extremely relatable. The mature nature of Clooney’s persona and experience slide him easily into the role of commander, and ultimately the voice of reason. Their blister-pack fresh dependency on each other highlights the imperative for human bonding in survival situations.
If you want to go see a movie that: all movies should aspire to be, movies should live up to be, movies should become, then go see this. If you want to be fully involved with your movie, go see this. If you want to be inspired by movies, film, and storytelling again, go see this. You owe it to yourself. Go see Gravity.
Rating: 11 out of 11
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Synopsis: A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Directors: Alfonso Cuarón
Writers: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonas Cuarón
Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney