Directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
When the trailer for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity hit the Internet earlier this year, it sparked a huge amount of interest from movie goers and critics alike. With rave reviews coming from across the pond, Gravity was topping a lot of lists as a ‘movie of the year’ candidate and today it finally hits UK shores. So the question remains, does it live up to all of this hype?
In short, yes.
Set solely in space and with only two characters worthy of note, Gravity is a tense, gripping, beautiful, tight and nerve shredding movie experience that deserves to be seen on the big screen, and especially in 3D. There are points in the movie where you, like the lead character Ryan (Sandra Bullock), will stop breathing because the tension Cuaron creates gets to be too much. Telling a story of this nature required a skillful hand who wasn’t afraid to play with ‘normal’ cinema conventions which is where Cuaron is able to shine. His script isn’t exactly daring but his style is captivating.
As with Children of Men, Cuaron is a director who is not afraid to hold on a single shot where other directors would have used ten. Shooting coverage does not seem to be in his manifesto but this is part of what makes Gravity so fantastic. The scenery presented throughout the movie is magnificent and the opening shot (which appears to go for 10+ minutes) is visually stunning. Never has the empty and vastness of space seemed so impressive, like a cinematic version of Space Oddity. Of course, this is all done through green screens and camera trickery and is therefore less impressive than the long takes in something like Rope, but the fact that Cuaron never shies away from the option of lingering on a single shot immerses you in the environment which only helps build on the nail-biting tension.
In a sea of horrid conversions and pointless attempts to exploit the gimmick, Gravity is the first movie since Avatar to make use of 3D for something other than an excuse to charge you extra money at the ticket booth. But unlike Avatar that used 3D to seemingly distract from its boring story, Gravity uses it to create a genuine and almost realistic atmosphere of space and the emptiness of it. Like its use of long takes, the 3D is an immersive element of Gravity and although it uses the tried and tested ‘things flying at the screen’ technique, it never feels cheap and is justified in the story it’s telling.
As an audience, we see these events through the eyes of Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone who is on camera for 95% of the movie. And while the idea of Miss Congeniality as an astronaut is akin to Meg Ryan as a helicopter pilot in terms of believability, Sandra Bullock never misses a beat and gives the best performance of her career as the panicked first-timer who is low on oxygen. We panic with her, we struggle to catch our breath with her and try to remain calm with her. It’s spellbinding how good she is. The always reliable George Clooney turns on the charm as the talkative veteran Matt Kowalski and he acts as the much needed calming influence to Stone (and therefore the audinece) as she tries to regain her composure. The two bounce off well together, but it’s Bullock who steals the show.
Much like In Fear, Gravity excels in the ‘what’s going to happen next’ stakes and there are only a few moments during the movie where you feel totally at ease. During some of the more tense scenes, you’ll find yourself gripping the armchair and nearly crying in pure terror at the spectacle on display and Cuaron never lets up on this. Some shots are extremely difficult to look at, but Cuaron forces you to see the horror to make sure that you are on the same emotional ride as his lead. Many have posited that the trailers have given way too much of the movie, but even on the big screen they do not do the whole experience justice.
Gravity is simply a masterpiece in filmmaking. The acting is sublime, it’s gorgeous to look at, the 3D is incredibly immersive and the tension is almost unbearable at times. There is a point during the movie in which it feels like it loses its nerve and jumps the shark, but luckily Cuaron isn’t the sort of director to bow to ‘Hollywood’ conventions. The hype and critical praise of the movie may seem like a touch too much for some, but its earned every ounce of it. This is pure cinema and a science fiction experience like no other. Movie of the year? Quite possibly.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★