When an accident occurs on the space station they’re working on, doctor Ryan Stone struggles to survive in the black.
Alfonso Cuaron, 2013
A routine mission goes awry when the Russians blow up one of their satellites, which causes a chain reaction of debris that destroys the space station Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), and a redshirt are on, they become stranded, nothing but their suits and one jetpack between them and the vaccuum of space. What follows is a tale of survival as one catastrophe after another befalls Stone on her attempt to return to Earth, in a story that’s a metaphor for life and loss and rebirth and other weighty issue, but is also an exciting, tense, claustrophobic ride.
This movie is a critical darling already, so I’m going to start off by telling you why you should see it just for fun. It looks terrific, exceptionally beautiful even in 2D (which is how I saw it – I’m hoping to see it in 3D at a later date). It’s also a real thriller which makes you care about the characters before putting them through the ringer, which makes it involving and interesting. There are a few laughs and light spots, mostly courtesy of George Clooney, whose lazy charm is put to good use here in a supporting role. The film rests squarely on Sandra Bullock’s capable shoulders, proving that she is more than worthy of the accolades she’s getting in a demanding role. She’s given a lot to work with – tragic backstory that’s presented with a lot of heart, plenty of heavy breathing, and some seriously physical work. She’s put through the wringer in more ways than one, and the effect on the audience is palpable. It’s an engrossing experience – you feel like you’re in the movie, taking this journey with our heroine. It’s also excellent to see a movie like this with a female lead – it was reminiscent of Alien in some ways, but with a much, much smaller cast. This is a journey worth taking with her, urging her on to survival every step of the way, and she proves herself worthy of our time and energy.
Alfonso Cuaron has made this film look like it was really filmed in space – the only suspension of disbelief necessary here is in believing the movie wasn’t actually filmed in space. It’s also well-named: the weightlessness is palpable, with the cinematography and camerawork disorienting at times, creating the zero gravity atmosphere we’re inhabiting. The sound design is excellent as well – jarring silence in opposition to crashing sounds creating an increasingly immersive experience. The metaphors do get a little heavy-handed at times (exhibit A: Stone curling into the fetal position to mirror being in the womb). There’s also a sense of repetition at some points – everything that can go wrong does so, and at one points the obstacles being thrown in Stone’s way can be exhausting. Still, these are minor quabbles in an otherwise excellent movie, and not in a pretentious, arthouse way. Cuaron is one of my favourite directors, and this is one of his best works so far.
Gravity on IMDb