There have been plenty of movies that have played on our fears of being alone, catapulting audiences into a situation one should never experience. Cast Away, Open Water, Buried, and 127 Hours all come to mind, but in Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, escape tends to be a little more difficult. Unconditionally thrilling, never dull, and not to mention insanely beautiful, Gravity will make you a complete wreck by the time its through.
“At 372 miles above the Earth, there is nothing to carry sound. No air pressure. No oxygen. Life in space is impossible.” Redundant and chilling, these words lay the ground work for the next 90 minutes. Gravity begins with a cold open, quickly introducing us to veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Biomedical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock).
In command of his last mission, the cool and collected Kowalski reminisces about his ex-wife while assisting Lake Zurich, Illinois native Stone on her first spacewalk. Their expedition is cut short when a shower of satellite debris meets their shuttle Explorer in Earth’s orbit. With the Explorer pulverized into Swiss cheese, Stone and Kowalski must find a way to maintain composure to evaluate the situation and rationalize a best case scenario.
Taking several years out of the spotlight, Alfonso Cuarón has not hit the silver screen since 2006’s Children of Men. Known highly for his meticulous long takes, hard-hitting story telling, and gorgeous filmmaking, Gravity is a welcomed return for the director – Cuarón has also directed Y Tu Mamá Tabién and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The storytelling is tight, focused, and simple. The back stories of our characters are a bit cliché and some unwelcome dialogue, but they are minor indescrepencies against this incredibly experiential film.
It is not the characters’ that makes Gravity so interesting to watch, because you could care less whether they make it through or not, it is the physical abilities these actors bring that demand your attention. Clooney is given little to do with how calm his character reacts to the situation, but it is Bullock who comes out as our shining star. Bullock’s range of emotions shown on camera are intimate and terrifying. The level of panic conveyed in her actions are felt with every move she makes. Stone’s journey becomes ours, so personal that you feel you are right there in the moment.
Cuarón’s numerous single-shot takes are literally breathtaking. Given we are only privileged to one perspective and we cannot see what’s coming most of the time, anxiety is this movie’s best friend. The score builds on top of cinematography hand-in-hand, creating even more tension than necessary, but there are times when it comes uninvited. There’s a sequence at the beginning when our characters are asked what they like about space, one says the quiet, but this heavy melodic score comes tromping in to ruin the mood.
There are some convenient plot elements that make the plot of Gravity unrealistic of course, but that pales in comparison to how extraordinarily believable the special and visual effects are. I’m no astronaut, but it would be hard-pressed to find an astronaut that says otherwise, and veteran astronaut Tom Jones seems to think so too.
Considerably light on plot, but heavy on details and stunning cinematography thanks to director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity sets the bar high for future space epics. There are so few movies these days that are absolutely necessary to throw your money at, and Gravity is an experience you cannot miss. This is a film that you must see in theaters, on the largest screen possible, and in 3D.
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Gravity was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, with a run time of 90 minutes. The film has been rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language. (Watch the trailer here)
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