Running Time 91 minutes
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Starring – Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris (Voice)
IRONICALLY in a year that’s been dominated by an array of superhero movies Sandra Bullock’s character in Gravity could’ve really used their help after finding herself stranded in space. Thankfully though things aren’t too bad, at least she’s got George Clooney for company.
What starts out as a routine mission for the two astronauts quickly descends into chaos, when debris from a Russian satellite destroys their space shuttle. Stranded hundreds of miles above Earth’s atmosphere, low on oxygen and with no means of communication, engineer Doctor Ryan Stone (Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) embark on an audacious attempt to get back home. Viewers of a nervous disposition who have found watching films like Argo and Captain Philips nerve-racking viewing experiences, will find their nails shredded throughout Gravity’s 91 tension-filled minutes.
The film is truly a labour of love for Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón, he’s produced, directed, edited and even co-wrote the film’s screenplay with his son Jonas Cuarón. Gravity has languished in production hell for almost four years while the filmmaker waited for technology to meet the ambitious requirements of the film’s visual effects. Thankfully it’s been time well spent because Cuarón along with his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezi and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber have undoubtedly created one of the most visually impressive features of the year. Capturing albeit only an essence of what it would feel like to be up there in space, with its spectacular views of Earth.
This reviewer has often lamented the increased use of 3D technology within the industry over recent years. So often rather than further immersing viewers within the feature, I’ve often found it a wholly unnecessary and disengaging addition to the overall viewing experience. But for the first time I have to admit the 3D effects accompanied this film wonderfully. Not just used for visual padding, they actually amplified the sense of visual disorientation during the zero-gravity sequences and helped ramp up the tension levels to almost claustrophobic levels.
It’s true that the film’s overall narrative is a tad over-simplistic, keeping character development to a bare minimum as it romps from one stunning set-piece to another, but that’s understandable given the situation playing out onscreen. In many it plays out like an art-house movie masquerading itself as a big-budget blockbuster, at its core it’s a film about the human condition and our endless endeavour to survive. We watch as Bullock’s character regains her love and gusto for life throughout the feature. Starting out as a pessimistic grieving mother, the wide-eyed wonder of Clooney’s more optimistic and upbeat character rubs off on her, reigniting her determination to survive the horrendous situation she’s found herself in.
Both Bullock and Clooney put in fine central performances. It’s true that Clooney is merely playing an overly accentuated caricature of himself, but it suits his role he’s been given. Bullock however has been given a much harder job, having to carry much of the film on her own and maintain viewer’s interest levels. Her performance is powerful yet understated, never steering into pure melodrama. For all the accolades bestowed upon the film’s jaw-dropping special effects, one of the film’s most powerful and memorable scenes see’s Bullock’s character crying alone in zero-gravity.
It’s never been easy being a fan of the American actress. She’s got such a likeable onscreen presence, but for every great performance she gives she always seems to crop up in some real cinematic turkeys. Her performance here and her recent Oscar-winning turn in The Blind Side remind us what a talented actress she really is.
The success of films like Gravity, Prisoners and Behind the Candelabra this year have shown there’s clearly viewers out there looking for something different from their cinema going experiences. It’s hard not to grow increasingly weary of the trip to your local multiplex when it’s become so overpopulated by an endless barrage of generic sequels and comic-book adaptations.
While it would be terribly naïve to suggest this trend will end anytime soon, it’s nice to see a film come along that’s still capable of taking your breath away and reminds you what you loved about cinema in the first place.
Review by William McClean