There is a brilliance in simplicity. But when a film’s narrative is as simple as Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity is backed up by an otherwise very complex set of visuals and an outstanding performance given by Sandra Bullock, you have one of those rare films that not only give audiences the opportunity to float in the stars, but it offers them a breath-taking white knuckle experience that they will be taking about for a very long time.
Cuarón proves that space does not need a franchise superhero, star destroyers, things that burst out of your chest, or sex appeal to make a good space movie. No. Cuarón shows that in its most simple narrative you can have a great space drama. You just have to present it in the most realistic way possible. Hit the jump for the full review.
Bullock is Ryan Stone, a rookie astronaut who is sent to space to assist with routine repairs to an American satellite. George Clooney plays the easy going self-deprecating veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky, who happens to be on his final space mission. During a routine space walk, the Russians destroy one of their own satellites causing the debris to be hurled towards Stone and Kowlasky’s direction. As the two feverishly try to get back inside, the debris collides with their space shuttle and cuts off all communications to mission control. Low on oxygen and with very few ways to get home, Stone makes a break for escape pod in the International Space Station before the debris can circle back and hit again.
This idea of coming back home from space when you have limited resources is nothing new. Especially when it is set in space. In fact, it has already happened in real life, just not on a scale like this one. But what Apollo 13 didn’t have back then was a character like Ryan – or the technology. Ryan’s backstory only makes every new danger in Gravity more like an impossible feet to overcome.
Cuarón, who also co-wrote the story with his son Jonás Cuarón, puts Ryan into situations whose victories amount to almost nothing. Ryan has some perserverance, but beneath all that, lies a lingering feeling of giving up. So no matter the size of the victory, it’s just one more inkling of hope for our heroine. But the reality of Gravity is that it is more than just about coming home or surviving, it’s the idea that when you have nothing at all, whether it is in space or at home, life is worth fighting for.
Ryan’s suffering is clear, practical, and relatable. The fact that she has such a tragic backstory only makes the film more powerful. Cuarón interchanges the physical challenges with the psychological ones seamlessly. Emmanuel Lubezki‘s cinematography gave the film the depth it needed to feel all the more real. Adding Andy Nicholson‘s production design, and you really start to wonder if the film was really shot on large rigs as Cuarón said it was. It is really incredible how Gravity was envisioned. For Bullock to “imagine” all the things that happen in the film, just shows how brilliantly executed Gravity really is.
Even with everything that is going on, you’d be surprise that the film runs on a short 88 minutes. But I think in the end, that is the perfect run time for a film like Gravity. Any more tension would have undercut any other tension that had been set up. Even with the short run time, there is a lot to like about Gravity. The fact that it is one of the most grounded space films is one of them. Gravity opens with a few facts about space itself. From widely varying degrees of temperature to the facts that there is no oxygen (to breathe or carry sound) and air pressure, Cuarón wants to make it clear that “Life In Space Is Impossible.”
Never has a film has technically complex but simple narratively as Gravity looked so cohesive. Bullock gives a performance of a life time, and shows how versatile she can really be with any role she is given. Clooney also gives an excellent performance by giving the film comedic lifts in its most critical time.
Gravity is the the film of the year. But to say that it is an absolute must see, would really be underselling it. Cuarón, Bullock, Clooney, and the rest of the team deserve much more credit than that, for their work in this marvelous film exceeds any and all expectations on a performance level and a technical level. So buckle up and prepare for one breathtaking hypnotic ride.