Gravity provides all the tension of the best horror films on the planet with flawlessly executed acting from Sandra Bullock and direction from Alfonso Curon. A winner at every level…
By Patrick Guera — Staff Writer
My favorite film of all-time is Alien. I’m not a Sci-fi buff by any stretch, nor would I be considered a horror fanatic. I love Alien because it is a near perfect film. From the direction to the atmosphere, score and acting, it ticks every mark of a great film. And there is no mistake that the story took place in space. Filmmakers venture into space to strip away earthly trappings, to truly leave the human isolated and away from the familiar; so that they might look inside themselves and discover something they lost or perhaps didn’t know they ever had. These fundamentals were not lost on filmmaker Alfonso Curón (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) when he made Gravity. In true sci-fi and great story-telling fashion, Gravity takes us on an out-of-this-world adventure that delivers inspiration and excitement in big, big ways.
Gravity stars Sandra Bullock (Speed, The Blind Side) and George Clooney (Ocean’s Eleven, The Descendants) as two NASA astronauts stranded in orbit after their space shuttle is destroyed by space debris from a blown up satellite. Clooney is the quintessential American cowboy taking the lead and staying cool as a seasoned veteran of space to Bullock’s first time astronaut. After they are separated the story focuses on Bullock’s character, Dr. Ryan Stone. With her six months of space training, Bullock has to muster the courage to make her way towards the International Space Station in hopes of finding an escape pod that will take her back down to earth, all the while looking over her shoulder for the next wave of deadly debris.
Curón meant to make this film rather quickly early in the 2000s, but after carefully considering the technical demands he waited until technology could catch up with the story he was trying to tell. It was well worth Curón’s patience as the technical achievement on display in Gravity is something that will likely be talked about for decades. The blend of seamless CGI and Curón’s penchant for long takes and dynamic perspectives combine for a wholly immersive experience.
The visceral quality of Gravity is unmatched in recent memory. The audience is at times the 3rd astronaut in the adventure before being put behind Bullock’s helmet, seeing the experience from her point of view. The angles chosen in this film truly drive the story. You feel every bit of what the characters experience. I found myself literally on the edge of my seat, feeling the desperation of trying to grab hold of a floating piece of metal in a vast and foreboding space. I felt out of control and tense; and coupled with the surprisingly effective 3D- that actually had me actually dodging objects coming off the screen- I was never taken out of the moment. It is tense and thrilling experience for the audience. The ability to keep a viewer locked into a perspective the way Curón has done with Gravity will likely earn him many nominations for best direction come awards season.
The gorgeous cinematography, use of (and lack of) sound and the deliberate manipulation of time and pacing truly takes you into outer space. Most sci-fi films will confine the audience in a spaceship or place them on an exciting new world. Gravity embraces the emptiness of open space. The sheer vastness of the environment takes on a life of its own. It becomes the monster in the shadows. One missed grip, one miscalculation and Dr. Stone would find herself swallowed by the ever-patient beast that lurks all around her.
Relying on one actor to carry a great portion of film this scale is risky. Sandra Bullock- who replaced Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman, and won out the role over nearly every major actress working today- is flawless as Dr. Stone. She isn’t a hero; she is an ambiguous, frail being; dwarfed by her environment and her predicament. Dr. Stone finds herself at times very meek- beaten before the bell sounds. In a relatively short span of time she has to find an inner strength to simply not give up. She is able to take us into the darker valleys of the human psyche, in quiet moments she reflects, as one would who is facing certain death. Through very stark symbolism, Bullock’s character is reborn from helpless to hopeful. We learn to survive along with her even if survival doesn’t guarantee living to see the next sunrise. In this surefire Best Actress nod, Bullock encourages us to never give up despite insurmountable odds.
This is normally the portion of the piece reserved for constructive criticism, where the filmmakers or actors could have improved or shored up holes in a film. As of this writing however, I have a hard time finding criticism for this film. Gravity, with all of its technical and artistic achievements, is a near perfect film. The attention to detail given by Curón and Bullock to their respective duties merits praise. Perhaps only the story’s ending could draw divided opinion, but even that has a calculation that is commendable regardless of expectations. Once again I implore readers to see this movie in the theaters. It is a scale and experience that cannot be replicated at home. And for the second article in a row I find myself recommending moviegoers to see this film in 3D, as it’s a rare case of 3D actually contributing to the story (perhaps the first time in modern filmmaking). Gravity brings sci-fi back to its roots, giving viewers a look into a world all parts unknown, beautiful, and terrifying. And in that world stands a lone character all too human in an alien environment that finds the courage to persevere and inspire.
This film receives 5 out of 5 on the Louis Skolnick scale: