The thing about movies I love more than anything else is the way they can take me to places I could never go. And Alfonso Cuarón does that and more in his masterpiece, Gravity. Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock, Gravity tells the story of two astronauts as they fight for survival after an accident leaves them floating in alone in space. Watch the trailer after the jump and then read my review.
Gravity opens with the thesis “life in space is impossible” and then shows us why. And after seeing the movie, I sat in a stunned silence because Alfonso Cuarón has conquered space.
No movie has had me at such a loss of words and as I write this review three hours later, I still can’t believe what I just watched. Never before has a movie looked so beautiful, has space looked so real and has space looked so scary. I hesitate to call it science fiction because this movie is much more real than that.
The story is simple enough although I will not spoil what happens after the first 15 minutes (which is all one take with no cuts). Two astronauts, veteran Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) on his last mission and rookie Ryan Stone (Bullock) are fixing something on the Hubble Telescope when debris hits the ISS, throwing them into space and cutting off their communication with Huston. The rest of the movie follows them as they try everything to get back to Earth and how that really isn’t very easy.
The story provides a foundation and drives the characters along, but more than anything, what happens to them comes from the unpredictability of space. I have read tons of articles on how Cuarón and his team created this world, but don’t want to include that here for fear of getting something wrong. So instead, I am embedding a video of Cuarón and Bullock talking about the filming process earlier at San Diego Comic Con.
With such a seamless background, Cuarón is allowed to get creative. I didn’t count how many times the movie cuts between scenes, but I am willing to bet it was less than 100 over the 90 minute running time. For long periods of time, the camera just moves fluidly from one thing to another and it is so mesmerizing that I hardly noticed after the first few scenes.
But it isn’t just the camera that tells the story. Sound (or lack thereof) plays just as an important role in the movie. In space, there is no sound, so while the explosions of exploding space craft, not once will you hear a boom. It is also interesting how the sound changes when Stone goes from outside a space craft to inside. The differences are extremely noticeable and perfectly timed to bring the most realism possible to the environment. And Steven Price’s orchestration deserves mentioning because it captures the ups and downs of Stone’s adventure perfectly.
As far as performances go, Clooney has it pretty easy in this one in the supporting role of Kowalsky. He is full of jokes and charm and you can tell he was having a good time. His character doesn’t have nearly as much to do as Bullock’s but with what he has Clooney does a great job. There is one scene late in the film where he really gets to be a dramatic actor and because of Clooney, that scene will stand out as one of the top scenes in the film.
In the lead role, Sandra Bullock deserves an Oscar. The above clip showed how much physical work was involved in the performance, but it didn’t really address what I thought was the key. She spends a lot of time alone and there is genuine fear in her face, especially when all seems lost. Her breathing and her facial expressions kept the fear and intensity going for the audience. I don’t think there are a lot of actresses in the business who could give a performance like this.
Gravity perfectly displays the art of film making in every way. There aren’t enough movies like this anymore. Alfonso Cuarón’s attention to detail and Sandra Bullock’s superb performance lead the way here, but credit should be given to the massive teams of special effects artists that also worked on the movie. Like Avatar, this movie was made for the theaters so when it hits on October 4th, don’t miss it in 3D. I can guarantee you will like what you see.