Gravity (2013)

Don’t Let Go

The famous tag line from James Cameron’s 1979 science-fiction classic Alien ‘In space, no one can hear you scream’ would have been much better suited to the new Alfonso Cuarón thriller Gravity, as it weaves a simple but compelling story about a rookie astronaut’s survival while adrift out in open space. Don’t let the film’s simple premise put you off, as Gravity is one gripping ride into outer space from start to finish.

Gravity opens with the US Space Shuttle Explorer docked at the International Space Station; there Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first outer-space mission installing an external device to the station that will enable astronauts to peer deeper into the unknown. On the opposite end of the spectrum is commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who is on his final mission casually taking in his surroundings while hovering about with his jet pack; other crewmembers are merely performing routine maintenance around the station and things seem to be rather causal.

Trouble strikes when Huston reports that there is a large amount of debris being hurled around Earth’s orbit as a result of the Russians having blown up one of their own satellites. Before the crew can hustle back to safety, they and the ISS are hit with a metal meteor shower destroying everything in its path. Now, cut off from NASA and the rest of the world, Dr. Stone and Kowalski must find a way of returning home while surviving in the open space.

Fancy seeing you up here!
Fancy seeing you up here!

As a film Gravity succeeds on multiple levels; firstly, the picture is a visual marvel as we, the audience, are literally thrown into outer space with extremely realistic special effects and an excellent mix of images and sounds. Alfonso Cuarón, Children of Men (2006), showcases his directing skills on many levels with Gravity as he is masterfully able to build anxiety throughout the picture whether the astronauts are inside a capsule or in the vast darkness of space, Cuarón builds suspense and tension with each new developing obstacle, and audiences will no doubt find themselves gasping for air and rooting for the character’s to overcome each new trail.

The film features many stunning single-take sequences; Gravity opens on a far shot of the ISS and doesn’t cut until the station is destroyed at the conclusion of the film’s first act. Even in these often lengthy takes the camera almost ‘floats’ around the actors and into interesting locations making it easy to forget you’re watching a film. Here for the first time in 2013 the 3D effects have actually enhanced the movie-going experience by creating a depth of filed within every frame adding a sense of realism and believability to the picture’s overall aesthetic. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, Children of Men (2006), captures the vastness of open space, presenting images of the characters hovering around in darkness, and claustrophobia, literally creeping inside the astronauts’ masks and taking the audience on an emotional ride with the leads.

The screenplay written by Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón is very simple and focused, as it shies away from the usual unnecessary sexual tension between leads, redundant side-stories and sub-plots; the script is solely fixated on the astronaut’s desperate attempt to make the most of the oxygen they have left. Planet Earth itself is almost a character in the story too, with the landscape often resembling the mood, feel or threat of the picture. Earth is introduced with blues and greens, then gets dark when things go sour for the crew, and is desert-like in appearance when there is a sense of dread or fear.

'Ground Control to Major Tom'
‘Ground Control to Major Tom’

The film’s two leads do an outstanding job with their work on Gravity, while George Clooney, Up in the Air (2009), pretty much just plays himself in a space suit, he comes off as rather affable and portrays Kowalski with his usual appeal and charisma. Sandra Bullock, The Blind Side (2009), on the other hand, pretty much carries the film in a tour-de-force performance, which might lead to Oscar recognition later on in the year. Ryan Stone travels on a physical and emotional journey, as this incident is more than just a fight for survival for Stone as her emotionally grieving character heals throughout the film; Ed Harris, The Abyss (1989), as the voice of Mission Control adds a nice touch to the already refined picture.

Gravity is a rare breed of film, simplistic yet refreshingly new. Visually, it will be studied for years to come, and thematically, will be revisited by the genre’s most passionate enthusiasts. It’s easy to add Gravity to the must see films of 2013, be sure to catch a 3D session if possible, as it’s definitely worth the price of admission!

4 / 5 – Recommended

Reviewed by Mr. Movie

Gravity is released through Warner Bros. Home Entertainment