Genre: Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
In a recent interview for Mexican TV, one clever journalist asked Gravity director Alfonso Cuarón what it was like to film in Space. The question may have been a joke, but you’d be forgiven for not wondering the same thing after experiencing Gravity. From the astonishing panoramic view of Earth from above that opens the film, Gravity is a visually astounding piece of cinema that thrillingly takes its audience on an adventure that will leave you, like Sandra Bullock’s central character, gasping for air.
Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first space mission with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski, who happens to be on his last. However, their routine space walk takes a sinister turn when debris from a broken satellite sparks a chain of events that leaves our astronaut’s shuttle destroyed and the pair spinning further and further into Space’s endless abyss; and it is only after establishing all of this that the film cuts to its second shot. Having spent years creating the technology to make this film possible, Cuarón and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki utilize long takes to create an effective sense of realism. Their restrained editing, coupled with Steven Price’s exceptional score, relentlessly pushes you to the edge of your seat. The wondrously crafted visuals, which both beg and deserve to be viewed in 3D, bringing you closer to the world above than any film has before.
It may be the effects that draw you in, but it’s the performances that truly grip you. As the only two actors on screen, both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney do sterling jobs holding their own next to the awe-inspiring visuals. Bullock, in particular, has never been better. Her character’s journey is simplistic but believable, Bullock’s pained monologue midway through giving the film an emotional intensity that adds to the excitement of the exceptional set pieces.
Clooney, meanwhile, provides a much-needed lightness to this perpetually dark tale. It may not be a particularly challenging role for the actor, but it doesn’t need to be; Kowalski’s relaxed charm provides balance to Stone’s driven but panicked demeanour and the interplay between these two very different characters is both humorous and heartfelt.
Having taken several years to bring Gravity to the screen, Cuarón continues to show that he is a master of the medium; his pace is steady, his characters investable and his scope astonishing. Throughout his career Cuarón has always tried to break new ground, he’s the man that injected the Harry Potter series with a much-needed maturity, and here he adds astounding depth to a basic story. His script, co-written with his son Jonas, is richly layered but it is his love for the visual that will stick in your mind. Few cinematic images this year will match the beauty of that opening shot of our planet and few will remember a more terrifying one than when we see Ryan Stone uncontrollably spinning further into an endless void.
The best summing up one can give of this film comes from Bullock herself; put simply, it’s “one hell of a ride”!