While veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are on a routine space walk their shuttle is destroyed leaving them alone to survive the emptiness of space.
The comparisons will be made, and rightly so, to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, due to the meticulous attempts of realism within the absoluteness of space. In Gravity there is a film so technically brilliant that Kubrick could only begin to comprehend the leaps that Alfonso Cuarón has taken since 1968. Cuarón has developed from what Kubrick began showing space in its realism, not only in its vastness but its emptiness and its ferocity.
The film opens with a spectacular shot highlighting the nothingness of space and the insignificance we hold within it as the blackness envelopes our earth. The chaos of space is also to be marveled at early in the film as the camera movement sends us on an unreadable journey as the space shuttle collapses and our characters are flung tumbling out of control into the blackness. There is nothing for us to hold onto and the disorientation of space only grows throughout the film. The commitment of Cuarón and his team in depicting space is shown in the exquisite sequences, whether at a merciless speed or a near stand still. It is a technical masterpiece that immerses you within its world often filming from a first person point of view to show the perplexity of outer space. It is a testament to modern technology that such an experience can be created, and the way that it is harnessed is sure to be inspirational to future filmmakers.
Alfonso Cuarón’s use of 3D shows how exceptional the technology can be when employed in the right circumstances. It is the depth of the picture that really contributes to the understanding of the limitlessness of space in what is a visually mesmerising work. The 3D of Gravity is essential to the film, as you need to be engulfed by the surroundings; the flat screen is not enough to create the illusion of never ending space. There is also no obstruction of the 3D to the cinematography of the film with the tantalising beauty of Earth constantly radiating in the background as a constant reminder of home. This is not a film to be experienced anywhere other than at the cinema, as the beauty and magnitude can only be transcribed across the big screen.
The narrative is linear without the need to go off course, as there is enough within the immediate fear of the impossibility of surviving in space to create continuous tension. The need within Hollywood to create action and overly complicated plots is often detrimental to any character development, ending in largely soulless films. By stripping the plot down to its believable minimum in this way Cuarón creates a much more intimate character led sci-fi. There is cohesion between the technical brilliance ever present in a sci-fi film, alongside the basics of character understanding in a drama that has become all but extinct in recent years.
George Clooney practically plays himself in this film as the charming veteran whose smooth and calming voice is there to bring Sandra Bullock’s up tight and nervy amateur to her survival senses. Sandra Bullock is outstanding throughout the film as Dr. Stone, and is toned down to the bare bones of the helplessness of this character. The tenderness that she plays the role is what makes the performance and constantly pangs at you for her survival, especially as her character grows. Sandra Bullock manages to embody the isolation and loneliness of space that is pivotal to the way Cuarón wants to display it. With a film so heavily based on CGI (although you couldn’t tell) the physical and emotional performance of both Clooney and Bullock is something to marvel at.
In Gravity Alfonso Cuarón has shown true genius, unfolding a film that spectacularly breaks technical boundaries, as well as holding together the purity of its ideals.