Alfonso Cuarὸn’s new film is strange as a concept. It doesn’t seem like an hour and a half of watching only two actors in space would be engaging cinema. If you think this when reading the premise of Gravity you are in for one huge surprise.
Gravity is a unique cinematic experience. The hypothetical camera switches between flying freely through the action and focusing directly on a character. This is used to striking effect when movement is involved. One second you can be looking at a stationary world with an astronaut spinning wildly until suddenly the camera zooms in on a face and the world moves behind them. It perfectly brings to life the disorientating nature of space and weightlessness for people who can never experience it. Moments in the film are purely beautiful, with some scenes looking like what Stanley Kubrick was dreaming of while making 2001: A Space Odyssey.
In a way it seems as if this film is nothing we’ve not seen before. We’ve had films in the beauty of space, we’ve even had Apollo 13, which is not only a space disaster film, but one based on a true story. It seems to almost cheapen the real drama and risk of space exploration to make up a story about the danger of space. But on the other hand, Apollo 13 was a long time ago. The Apollo program hasn’t been operational for forty years. It seems about time that we had a space film for our generation, complete with the ISS and the real risk of space debris. Not to say that the film is scientifically accurate, many people have dedicated time pointing out that it isn’t. However, it seems that those people have rather missed the point. What is important is that it’s scientifically believable enough to not break the suspension of disbelief.
If Sandra Bullock wanted another Oscar she couldn’t do better than Gravity. Bullock explores the nature of stress, trauma and fear incredibly skilfully. The brief moments of respite for her character are some of the most memorable parts of the film. The character’s journey from the womb of space to an earthly rebirth is powerfully shot and portrayed. It’s a true harmony of performance and direction, allowing for a much greater breadth of symbolism and communication. Every accolade needs to be thrown at her performance, all the more so given the difficulty of shooting scenes where she appears weightless, or even scenes where only her face is visible through a helmet and her voice alone carries the film. George Clooney somewhat fades behind Bullock’s performance but is sensitive and cheerful in his portrayal. His optimism is the perfect foil to Bullock’s misery and introversion and they play off each other to great effect regardless of the situation.
Cuaròn’s film is daring and beautiful, yet you have to wonder how enduring this beauty is. Shiny CGI of orbit is not enough, no matter how innovative the style and cinematography. I even wonder if this sense of scale and grandeur will make this film suffer in the future on DVD and television. Gravity seems like a plea to movie-goers to abandon the 5 inch smartphonescreens and appreciate the wonder of being surrounded and overwhelmed by a movie.
- Entertainment: 4/5
- Artistic: 4/5
- Intellectual: 3/5