Film Review – Gravity

Gravity (M)

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron

Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Four and a half stars

Review by: Julian Wright

There are no restless spirits throwing a tanty, deranged killers leaping out from the shadows, or even probe obsessed aliens, but Gravity is making itself at home alongside terrifying classics Alien, The Exorcist, The Shining and Halloween. Albeit with a much larger budget, bigger name cast and all the special effects money can buy, Gravity’s intentions remain the same – to shake, rattle and roll its audience – which it achieves in spades. It may simply be the eerie presence of endless empty space as the lurking villain,  but if you emerge from this ordeal with dry palms, then you need to check your pulse.

Tapping into universal fears of death and isolation, and then waving them in our faces with impeccable 3D imagery, co-writer and director Cuaron and his script buddy and son Jonas take us into space for one hell of a roller coaster ride and a nerve knotting experience. The plot is thin but the tension is thick as engineer and first time astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) nervously works away on a space shuttle while the more experienced Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) floats around in his little jet pack telling stories and engaging in flirty chit-chat with his attractive colleague, trying to lighten the mood.

GRAVITY

Word from the Houston station on Earth comes in that debris is heading their way but before they can take cover, the shrapnel connects, wreaking havoc and Stone is thrust out into space, spinning uncontrollably. Communication lines to Earth are cut off, her only contact is with Kowalski and her oxygen levels are depleting at an alarming rate. What follows in almost real-time is a story of one woman’s sheer determination to overcome every last obstacle thrown in the way of her safety and return home.

Never before has terror been so eloquently constructed and conveyed, with Cuaron’s fluid camera absorbing the vast surrounds in long takes and occasionally carefully creeping into Stone’s helmet, putting us in her shoes (or suit). We experience the dilemma with her as opposed to witnessing it, feeling every jolt and jiggle in a gravity-less backdrop. And it is one dilemma that we only just barely survive as every one of Stone’s gasps for air is also one of our own.

Cuaron nicely balances the visceral nature of his film by stopping to smell the roses, so to speak. Amidst the hectic panic, there is a chance to take in the awe and beauty of Earth from this rarely experienced perspective. It also serves as an exploration of our relationship with our mysterious universe and that no matter how far we have come as a species, we are still at the mercy of our environment.

GRAVITY

Unhindered by their bulky space suits, Clooney and (especially) Bullock’s performances shine through. Bullock’s uncanny, realistically performed arc is as wondrous as the glorious and seamless special effects around her as she goes from nervous, panicked and helpless to determined and focused while the whole time keeping her character human and relatable – a performance akin to Sigourney Weaver’s in Alien and Aliens but without the drooling, toothy critters. Gravity is a much better showcase for Bullock’s acting than her Oscar-winning one in The Blind Side.

In a rare move for big budget projects set in space, Gravity values silence – adhering to the scientific fact that sound does not travel in space. There are several spectacular moments of destruction to rival a Michael Bay film that, from Stone’s point of view, play out almost entirely without sound. So attentive to detail and realism is Cuaron that he is unwilling to succumb to Hollywood norms for the sake of spectacle. His style is the spectacle. Such a stressful experience is Gravity that you may leave short of breath and with stomach ulcers – but it is worth it.

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One Response to “Film Review – Gravity”

  1. […] Gravity – my chair arm rests had never been gripped so tight, my breath never held so many times nor […]

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