There are some movies that you watch, and some movies that you experience. Like Avatar before it – Gravity is a film that must be viewed in IMAX 3D to be truly appreciated as the filmmaker intended. Here, Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) crafts a beautiful masterpiece, a stunning film that is nearly flawless. On a personal note, there are two things that I find terrifying: the ocean and space. I never want to be any place where I cannot breathe normally. Space seems equally frightening and beautiful to me, and Cuaron captures that unique duality perfectly.
The movie takes place entirely in space, and the visual aspect of the film was nothing short of breathtaking. I’ve never seen a movie, science fiction or otherwise, feature such a stunning depiction of the planet and stars. You have no choice but to be captivated, as there are no extraneous distractions on the screen. There is just simplistic beauty; nature unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed. The phenomenal backdrop is viewed from the perspective of Sandra Bullock (The Heat) and George Clooney (The Descendants) as Ryan Stone and Tom Kowalski. The astronauts are on a routine space mission, when they find themselves in the midst of a harrowing ordeal.
I felt an uneasy sense of apprehension throughout, as I knew something was going to go wrong. That’s attributable to having seen the trailer, but also because of the movie’s atmosphere. There was such profound peace in the silence of space; I knew it would be disrupted. While making a repair on a satellite (I think), Stone and Kowalski get word from Houston that the Russians have destroyed one of their own satellites, causing a field of debris. Initially the blast particles would not have reached them, but a ricochet effect has placed them in harm’s way. First we wait with baited breath for the interstellar onslaught, and then our collective hearts stop as pieces of debris come hurtling through space at our beleaguered pair. I was so enraptured that I found myself dodging the debris too, as the 3D effects made me feel like the objects were coming right at me.
From top to bottom, this was a stellar film. I’ve already described the breathtaking imagery, but the performances were equally impressive. Bullock’s range is on full display, as Dr. Stone teeters along the precipice of disaster for most of the film. She showed the full gamut of human emotion, as Stone was at times terrified, courageous, vulnerable, and at one point just decimated psychologically. When characters are isolated in such a manner, the merits of the performance are allowed to shine through. Bullock is the centerpiece of the film, and there is no doubt that viewers will be emotionally invested in such a human, nuanced character and performance. Clooney gives an amazing performance as well, and he only gets more charming with age. His presence is calm and soothing, a reassuring beacon in the abyss for Stone as she fights to survive.
This is a film that must be experienced, not just with the eyes, but with the entire being. This is not a passive viewing experience; I was spellbound but fully engaged for the entire film. Never have I felt that I was vicariously sharing the experiences of a character as I did while watching Gravity. I’d be shocked if the film did not receive a slew of award nominations, particularly for cinematography. The camera work was phenomenal and there were scenes rife with meaningful symbolism, particularly one where Bullock is filmed as if she’s in utero. The weightlessness of space allowed Cuaron to experiment with perspective and imagery in brilliant fashion. What more can I say? A must-see film. Grade: A.