Gravity (2013) Review

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Alfonso Cuarón’s unique and chillingly affirming space drama stands apart as a visually arresting, attention absorbing, lovingly focused piece of well-made cinema. 


VERDICT: ★★★★★


Written by Cuarón and his son Jonas, the film sees it’s main character, a first-time mission specialist named Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) stranded in the void of space after a chain reaction caused by a Russian satellite, destroyed by its own government severs their connection to NASA and the hi-speed debris left in its wake collides with their space shuttle Explorer.

There are few films that this spectacular portrayal of the infinite silence pays tribute to, not least of which is Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Space Odyssey’ and Ridley Scott’s ‘Alien’.  Both being fantastic films and pioneers of the genre. However it is safe to say that had Kubrick been around to see Cuarón’s offering he would have been jealous. Gravity gives us one of the most realistic renditions of outer space committed to the big screen. Ironically enough gravity itself is almost entirely absent from the film. This is not a negative point however as the overall use of the phenomenon elicits the story and is highly symbolic.

Thankfully the film’s first allegiance is to the characters. Though decidedly different to begin with, the nature of their surroundings forces them to reveal deeper parts of their persona. As is expected, like space Stone is emotionally alone. Having suffered tragedy, she has become tethered to her past. But the only option for moving forward is learning to let go, which she is able to do with the help of Kowalski.

Character backstory is layered gradually as we progress through their dilemma and never over-saturates the narrative. Instead it is cleverly used as a vehicle to provide stimulus for the many decision-making moments dotted throughout the movie.

Both Bullock’s and Clooney’s performances have heart and a depth that transcends their aesthetically pleasing faces, affording the audience a real connection slightly more intimate than one would usually experience sitting on the other side of the silver screen. The roles were made for them and it is a delight to see their story unfold. Cuarón dabbles with the sentimental but never over saturates us with it as the sheer force of the films momentum never allows us to dwell in one moment for too long.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is excellent and is greatly enhanced by the stereoscopic conversion. Not noticeable at first, you realise that as the characters fall through the hollow of space the conversion gives the audience a real sense of their geographical predicament. In addition to this the threat of the space debris, which is in many ways the films silent antagonist is made that much more believable. It is a subtle application that really pays off.

Another aspect to make note of is the clever use of first person perspective, especially during the extremely tense survival sequences. There were moments where I almost found myself reaching out to grab a ledge in the distance for fear that my life depended on it.

Sound is where Gravity excels in being one of those rare cinematic events - A full sensory experience. Sound echoes from all four corners of the cinema and silence pierces with its rawness. The score by Steven Price is perfectly placed. I can still hear the main theme in my head as I type.

The film succeeds in sucking the audience into the vacuum of space. Leaving them feeling just as helpless and alone as its main protagonist. And though it is a proxy sensation it feels no less real and loses none of its immediacy or impact. It is a dark and giddy ride that will take your breath away in places and give you much to muse on after it’s all said and done. One thing of which will no doubt be the fact that two actors have held up an entire film.


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