To review a film on DVD offers a rare opportunity to a critic. It’s a chance to further enhance your thoughts on a film (be they positive or negative), or even rethink your opinion entirely. That sense of having truly witnessed something uniquely special pulsated through my mind after experiencing Gravity. Yet, despite the praise deservedly lauded upon it, a nagging feeling remained at the back of my mind; as enthralling an experience as it was, when you replace the glitz & glam of the big 3D screen with the 24-inch one in your living room, would Gravity continue to be the same mind-blowing experience it was in the cinema?
Admittedly, watching Gravity on a screen unable to fill your entire visual field does take away some of the majesty of those extraordinary visuals, particularly during that sensational opening tracking shot. But if anything, Gravity is an even greater experience on the small screen. Alfonso Cuaron’s astonishing vision is a meticulous combination of visual style, supreme performance and cinematic technique that any number of directors will undoubtedly try to emulate in the future.
For a film that specifically states that Space carries no sound in its opening credits, it’s almost ironic that the sound and music particularly stand out upon repeat viewing. Both the diegetic and non-diegetic tones add to the atmosphere of the story, right from the opening titles; an unsettling chord played over the intro cards, growing louder and louder and causing anxiety before the film has even started.
Steven Price’s magnificent score, which effortlessly complements the thoughts and feelings of the characters, as well as the pace and tone of the narrative, is a masterpiece in itself. The echoing piano keys, if anything, give greater breadth to those astounding visual effects. Yet, their slow and melodic nature also infuses a greater poignancy, particularly during Ryan’s revelatory monologue about her daughter.
The thematic elements of the film are what bared the brunt of any criticism, which seems unfair; strip away the visuals and Gravity is an enthralling tale, a story darkened by tragedy and driven by hope. Alfonso Cuaron and his son Jonas create characters we can identify with. Despite taking place in an atmosphere few of us have experienced, their pain and suffering (particularly Ryan’s) prays on our worst nightmares and is transferable to the audience; encouraging a stronger bond between the character and the viewer.
The performances by both Clooney and Bullock are stellar. In fact, they are an even greater pleasure on second viewing. Bullock’s anxiety may be obvious, but the pain she exudes is delicate and subtle; the heartbreak of retelling a memory she’s tried in vain to suppress etched on her face, told through her eyes.
Of course, the visuals are what everyone spoke of after seeing Gravity and, indeed, they are likely to be what critics and writers will continue to focus on in years to come and deservedly so. Even without the 3D, the effects remain a stark reminder of just how far computer effects have progressed. Any thoughts that the film wouldn’t have the same hypnotic power on the small screen are quashed almost instantly. That opening tracking shot will rightly be held up as a pinnacle point in contemporary filmmaking for years to come. There’s a deep-rooted love for sci-fi here; salutes to the great works that come before it, notably Kubrick’s 2001, and previews of what the future may hold.
Whether you agree or disagree, there is no way you can deny what an accomplishment Gravity is. Few films have been, or ever will dare to be, so bold, so outstandingly vivid. Cuaron’s finest film, in an already illustrious career, will be discussed and debated for decades to come. One thing’s for sure though, it’s quite literally out of this world.
Gravity is now available to rent & buy on Blu-Ray & DVD.