Every now and then, a film comes along that makes you stare at the screen in awe. “Gravity” is that film. It’s visually stunning, grippingly terrifying and is breathtakingly effective. The magic of filmmaking is on full display.
It’s a viewing made for IMAX 3D, where the infinity and unknown of space are visually heightened, making it mysterious, terrifying and beautiful all at the same time.
In “Gravity”, directed by Alfonso Cuarón,Bullock stars as medical engineer, Ryan Stone, and George Clooney as astronaut Matt Kowlski. Together, they have to work to survive after satellite debris destroys their shuttle. As they struggle to return to Earth, they encounter obstacles and their determination and nerves are tested.
The opening scene, where Stone is fixing a technical issue on the outside of the shuttle with the help of Kowlski, allows the audience to get their first glimpse of the visual marvel of this film. The horizon between earth and space is so compelling to look at as the shots linger on the awe-inspiring sight. This scene also sets up the characters’ personalities: Stone is reserved and conscientious, while Kowlski has a more laid-back, outgoing personality. Their dynamic is great.
This opening scene is the tamest part of the film. Once the astronauts receive the warning of oncoming, hurling debris, the tone of the movie shifts. There is more panic in the air as Stone and Kowlski do all they can to recover from the debris attack.
With director Cuarón’s brilliant hand, the viewer is placed right in the middle of the action, experiencing the flying debris and damage head-on. At one point, the camera pans around Stone as she is spinning, moves in closer to her panic-stricken face (Sandra Bullock is an acting force in this film), and then moves into the helmet and looks out from Stone’s point of view. It’s a terrifying effect. With this very smart move by Cuarón, the thought of being in Stone’s dangerous position is now in the viewer’s mind. The beauty of space is then tainted with the danger of its never-ending vastness. This vast, endless space is a constant presence in the film, looming over every shot and action.
Besides the visual marvel of the film, the most impressive aspect is how the story seems to make itself up as it goes along. Every advance in the plot is not very predicable, often taking the audience by surprise. It’s deeply organic, with the camera moving in and out, in and around debris and following the astronauts at drift. It feels unchoreographed, which perhaps helps to make the story feel more real and believable. That’s anther interesting fact about “Gravity”: is doesn’t really fit into one genre. It has sci-fi and action aspects, of course, because of its setting in space and the exhilarating shuttle-damaging scene, but the story is also plausible. The shuttle Stone and Kowlski travel in are like the ones once used by actual astronauts years ago. It’s a plausibly true story from the past, which grounds the film and makes the terror of it more real.
The performances from Bullock and Clooney garner sympathy from the audience. You understand their fear and their aching to return to Earth. And you are rooting for them from the beginning. Clooney is as calm, cool and collected as ever in his role and with great comedic timing and a gentle nature, he provides much of the film’s comic relief and not only helps Bullock’s character stay calm, but helps the audience as well.
But it’s Bullock’s performance that really pulls you in. She’s magnetic. Even when her surroundings are easy to gawk at and get lost in, the emotions she puts in her face pull your attention in and keeps it there. With Bullock’s incredible performance, Stone is a character that you are able to identify with and care about, even though you are grounded in your seat instead of floating in space along wit her. And it’s her devastating fear, but also her motivation to survive, that sticks with you long after the space-hurling ride has come to an end.
“Gravity” is an incredibly well-made film and so far, it’s the first film this year that has taken me on such a awe-inspiring, exhilarating adventure. The emotions I went through and the IMAX 3D experience was almost exhausting, but that to me, is a sign of a great film. I felt like I experienced the beauty, excitement and the terrors of space from the comfort of me seat. And that’s the feeling a movie like this should give you.