Review: Gravity

GravityThe ominous tagline, “Life in space is impossible” starts us off in the right direction for Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. The 90 minute film pushes the general public’s scientific understanding and stress threshold to the absolute brink. Cuarón is able to create or rather mimic a realistic situation that rivals the real life events of Apollo 13 for heroism and human ingenuity. The story begins with Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) on her first space mission alongside veteran astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), on his final mission. Due to the purposeful destruction of a Russian satellite, the shuttle Explorer is inundated with debris that causes irrevocable damage to both the shuttle and neighboring satellites and space stations. During the initial salvo of debris, Stone is separated from Explorer and its crew. As she fades into the distance while running low on oxygen the faintness of Kowalski’s calming yet authoritative voice demands information from her. This is simply where the story begins. Through a series of events we watch as one woman fights to survive in the most uninhabitable environment known to man.

The movie is a testament to what human ingenuity is able to accomplish. On the surface the events seem hard to believe but when one compares them to the harrowing events of real life space survival story, Apollo 13, it makes the film more plausible. The film should be praised for its scientific accuracies; never going too far into summer blockbuster action territory. The score is minimal and this seems for good reason. In space there is no sound so large portions of the film are spent in mostly silence. This adds to the effects of space being bleak and unnerving. Cuarón is able to paint a picture of intensity and relief and ramped intensity again. This cycle of ups and downs keeps the audience fully involved. Sliding effortless between third person views of the events to inside the helmet of Dr. Stone as she is outside the ship is the very definition of stress as a film viewer; its refreshing to watch a movie that has real stakes.

Bullock and Clooney deliver as usual. Clooney is pretty much playing himself in a space suit. His character, Kowalski, is a Texan who has a level of calmness under fire that makes him endearing. He adds a level of levity to the otherwise hard science fiction elements that dominate the film. Sandra Bullock has a masterful performance here, one of the best of her career. While I normally find her rather bland, she is able to connect as the every woman here. Her fear, background, and extremely vulnerable moments make her journey that much more engrossing. When she fails you feel that failure and that frustration. When she succeeds you are right along with her. That is the true mark of small cast films like this. For the few people who have actual screen time, how well do we connect with them? For Sandra Bullock character’s you feel like the doctor on his or her first mission and scared to death knowing that you will possibly die on this day.

Alfonso Cuarón co-wrote the story with his son Jonás Cuarón and their passion is seen in every moment. For largely a play with two, sometimes one character the film still feels enormous. The looming 90 minute timeline within the film is mapped perfectly with the 90 minute film runtime. The aforementioned play with limited sound and the dullness of the space debris smashing together. Those harrowing moments of running out of oxygen and being forced to slow the character's breathing while all the while ramping up the intensity of the audience. With all these factors the movie simply works perfectly. Visually the movie is better than anything we’ve seen in the last few years. Taking on Avatar and far surpassing it, Gravity, is a masterpiece of visual cinema.

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