Gravity Review: More Than Just a Thrill Ride
A forward: If you watch this movie, go watch it in 3D. Now I’m sure you’re thinking, who is this person? Well, to you most likely nobody. But believe me when I say this: the movie was probably only fifteen minutes in when I realized I had made a huge mistake. And yes, I know 3D can suck - it’s expensive. Just head to Google, find the best 3D theatre in town, and shell out the few extra bucks. I’m still wishing I had seen it in the full glory of its extra dimension.
opened on Friday October 4th. Today, the box office numbers are coming in, and they’re huge, as they should be. Gravity
is one of those films that has everything you could ask for. It’s action packed but it’s not gratuitous. The stakes are huge. The scope is grand. The cinematography is gorgeous. And at the center of it all is the cimple story about a woman - a woman who has given up on life and in turn is confronted with death.
Ryan Stone is an astronaut. It’s her very first trip into space and she was rushed through training in just six months. She was brought on to oversee repairs to the Hubble telescope. And she’s made it! She’s in a space surrounded by darkness and stars and the most beautiful view of planet Earth except she’s not enjoying any of it. Her body hasn’t adjusted yet to zero gravity and she is intensely focused on her work. Meanwhile, her mission captain Matt Kowalski is swirling around the spaceship in his jetpack. Likewise, fellow astronaut Shariff is goofing around, trying to make the most of his spacewalk. You can hear Matt over the radio, harassing Mission Control in Houston with his stories despite their protestations that they’ve already heard them all.
A seemingly insignificant moment transpires when Mission Control alerts the astronauts of a satellite that has been struck by a Russian missile, but they continue with their work, justifiably un-alarmed due to the reports from Huston they are out of harms way. But in a split second everything changes. Mission Control warns them that the impact has caused a chain reaction and is bringing down every satellite in its path and the debris is headed their way.
They’re ordered to return to the spaceship before the deadly shrapnel hits them. As Mission Control prepares the astronauts for a total communication blackout as they begin to lose their own satellites the deadly debris arrives, and pandemonium ensues. Casualties mount, Stone gets cast off - still attached to the scaffolding that was keeping her safely anchored to the telescope and which is now throttling her away from the spaceship - and all the while Kowalski’s voice is heard confidently assessing the situation and reaching out to Stone. It’s just them now.
Adrift in space. No one to rescue them but themselves. From there on out the film becomes a powerful and compelling story of rebirth. Ever since the death of her daughter, Stone has been living in stasis but now her own death is a pressing and constant thought. Stone’s natural instincts to stay alive keep her going at first but she can only take so many tribulations before her morale plummets and she wonders: should she just give up, or is life truly worth all this trouble?
Huge props go out to Sandra Bullock for delivering a near perfect performance. Her portrayal of Ryan Stone is honest and vulnerable, but never weak. It’s a performance that knows when to go big and when to apply a subtle touch. George Clooney is equally strong and charming (as always) as Kowalski and his scenes with Bullock are key turning points in the film. Their onscreen chemistry and interactions feel natural and effortless, but hat being said, Bullock carries this film from the start all the way to its magnificent conclusion.
We can’t sing Gravity
’s praises though without giving Alfonso Cuarón his dues. In partnership with his son, Jonás Cuarón, he’s written a creative and compelling script, the directing is ambitious and you will see things shot in a way you would have never imagined possible. One of my favourite moments was a close up of Bullock as she drifted through space and we see her panicked expression and Earth’s reflection on the visor of her helmet. As the camera slowly continues to zoom into her face, it goes through the visor and brings you into the spacesuit with Bullock. Her heavy breathing becomes real, as before this we were hearing everything through the radio system. We can see what she sees through her helmet, and its beautiful and terrifying all at once.
Cuarón hired Emmanuel Lubezki as his director of photography, a smart choice as he is one of the best DP’s out there. With his touch outer space looks breathtakingly alienating and sparse. The very last shot in the film is one that has been done before countless times but under Lubezki, it becomes a powerful, exuberant, life-affirming apex in a film that is full of momentous shots. If you haven’t seen it yet I at once again advise you to go now. You don’t want to be that person who doesn’t know what everyone else is talking about.