Gravity – Movie Review

Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writer: Alfonso Cuarón
Actors: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Runtime: 91 min
Rating: PG

Movies have the ability to transport audiences to places they would never otherwise have the opportunity to see, and to experience things they couldn’t else imagine in their wildest dreams. A film that accomplishes these feats effectively becomes more than just a box office hit or a critical success. Rather, such a film is a very special work of art that works to broaden the experiences of humanity. Gravity is just such a film, due not only to its spectacular visuals, but also to a stunning acting performance.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in this film as two astronauts on a space mission gone wrong.  Bullock’s character Dr. Ryan Stone is a serious and highly gifted, albeit nervous, medical engineer who is not enjoying her time in outer space and hides a tragic secret. Clooney’s Matt Kowalski, on the other hand, is a seasoned astronaut who appears born for these surroundings, exuding calm and confidence even in the face of extreme danger. When a freak accident during a routine operation leaves the two individuals contactless and adrift, they must access unknown skills, make selfless sacrifices, and battle extreme odds in order to survive.

Gravity

Gravity presents its audience with a setting the vast majority of us will never experience. For this reason, many of the images are automatically thrilling, even if no action is occurring; a shot of a tiny astronaut simply flying untethered in the vastness of outer space has the ability to generate goose bumps. The film relies heavily on its visuals, which are, in no uncertain terms, magnificent. Long, uninterrupted shots allow a viewer the chance to fully absorb that which they are seeing in moments of calm, and fully experience the panic of the characters in moments of chaos. The film takes its time setting up its story, allowing a viewer to acclimatize to the unfamiliar visuals before the trouble begins. Although the action is almost non-stop, the pace remains quite measured and never feels rushed, lingering over shots appropriately and allowing time for the visuals to fully sink in.

Although I am not generally a fan of 3D filming, here it was superb, and actually quite necessary. Instead of throwing objects at the audience to create a scare, this technology integrates us right into the action instead, and is needed to depict this kind of unfamiliar and hyperdimensional world. The film acts as a tutorial regarding a space without that force which we daily take for granted: gravity. A third dimension allows an audience to almost feel this lack tangibly, as if we were weightless ourselves. In addition, any nausea or discomfort generated by the 3D only adds to the realism of the film.

Gravity

Finally, and most importantly, a note must be made about Bullock’s stellar performance. Clooney is charming and lovable as the kind and cocky Matt, but as the terrified Ryan, Bullock conveys emotion in a way rarely seen in cinema. Indeed, the frequent shots from Bullock’s point of view are those that generate the most terror, as it is easy for a viewer to believe that they are right up there with her, experiencing her fear and elation in turns. Every emotion is conveyed to, and thereby shared with, a breathless audience; when Ryan runs out of oxygen, we gasp for breath, and when she experiences a triumph, our hearts leap with joy. Not only does an audience view this character’s actions, but they also become familiar with her psyche, learning about her past and motivations as the film progresses. We therefore share a connection with Ryan that is twofold; we experience the world with her, and we catch glimpses into her mind. This technique allows one to truly become a part of this film, and this world, through Ryan, as opposed to remaining casual spectators on the outside.

Gravity

Watching Gravity is the closest most of us will ever come to experiencing outer space. While it may not be my favourite outer space-themed movie, it is by far the most accurate depiction of a weightless world, due in part to the outstanding technological resources available today. Although the visuals are stunning and will not soon be forgotten, Bullock’s performance also lingers in the mind. This film depicts the story of a few extraordinary hours in the life of a woman with incredible endurance and perseverance of the body and spirit, a theme that certainly deserves attention and applause. A film that allows an audience to live that which they never could otherwise is highly valuable, and becomes more than simply entertainment; it becomes experience. Thus is the magic of movies.

Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival