Since the teaser trailer arrived online in the summer of last year, the anticipation of sci-fi thriller ‘Gravity’ was immense, and deservedly so. Coming from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, who is best known for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men, his latest picture sees Sandra Bullock star as Dr. Ryan Stone, a NASA medical engineer who is sent on her first space mission to service the Hubble Telescope. Accompanied by the highly experienced astronaut Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), their assignment is soon put into severe jeopardy when a collision on a defunct satellite sends a horde of space debris directly towards them. Revolutionising 3D with stunning camera work, and using its magnificent setting as a terrifyingly open canvas to tell an intense human survival story, this is not only unlike anything you’ll have seen this year, it is entirely different from anything you will have ever seen on the big screen, providing a refreshing cinematic experience.
‘Gravity’ will pull you in immediately and won’t let go, from the glorious opening scene which slowly swoops and dips for seventeen minutes without a cut, establishing the vastly disorientating environment, the 3D effects unrestricted by horizons and benefiting hugely from it as we, the audience, at times essentially become the camera. Avoiding the science fiction familiarities of lasers and aliens, Cuarón cleverly utilises the scenery to explore more grounded themes of parenthood, life and death, and isolation as our two Hollywood stars float around in space alone, open and honest in the silence of the surroundings. Kowalski has a care free attitude, taking enjoyment from the freedom of space and the blissful escapism from the humdrum day-to-day existence, savouring the view from above. Stone, in contrast, is in search of solace, detaching herself from the trauma she has suffered 372 miles below on earth’s surface.
As events force both Stone and Kowalski to contemplate their futures, their opposing life viewpoints are split further apart which is fascinating to watch, despite rather unimaginative dialogue. Where the aesthetics launch us to exciting new realms and future possibilities, the dialogue harks back to the past with worn out phrases like ‘I’ve got a bad feeling about this’ and ‘it’s not rocket science’ standing out as the championing rotten, yet cheekily delivered, lines in the script. Though I guess when the overall concept and visual elements are so pioneering, it doesn’t matter quite so much what the characters are saying, though I’m sure Clooney’s material as the caped crusader had more originality. In saying that, he and Sandra Bullock are both outstanding throughout, and given the fact they are the only two actors in the piece, aside from voice performances, they share the screen very well together, connecting beautifully in some of the most gripping scenes. Bullock provides a sympathetic, hard-hitting turn in the key role, handling the emotion perfectly as we relate to her personal grief whilst in shock of her sensational circumstance leading to a scene which will blow you away. She displays a commanding presence, as she floats solo for the majority of the film.
Cuarón squeezes this incredible journey into a surprisingly tight running time, allowing us to catch our breath and regain composure after just over ninety minutes, showcasing a unique and admirable technical achievement as well as telling a brilliant story of great depth and courage. This is one of the very few films I would recommend seeing in 3D, alongside only Ang Lee’s Life of Pi, and I urge you to experience it on an IMAX screen if you can. At a time when we thought we had seen it all, ‘Gravity’ has pushed the boundaries and expanded the possibilities, and in refusing to take small steps, signifies a giant leap for cinema.