Synopsis: Gravity, directed by Oscar nominee Alfonso Cuaron, stars Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in a heart-pounding thriller that pulls you into the infinite and unforgiving realm of deep space.
Release Date: October 4, 2013 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Science Fiction, Thriller
What do you get when you combine a pair of Oscar-winning actors with an Oscar-nominated director and surround them with a creative team of talented (and, in many cases, Oscar-nominated) professionals? The long answer is a stunning display of modern technical filmmaking, but the short answer, apparently, is Gravity.
Gravity stars Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side) as Dr. Ryan Stone, a young woman who is rushed through training with NASA so that she can help install computer equipment on the International Space Station. George Clooney (SThe Descendants) is Matt Kowalsky, a veteran shuttle commander who is in charge of the mission. The crew is working outside the station when some debris from a satellite explosion damages the space station, cripples their shuttle, and sends the two survivors, Ryan and Matt, hurling through space.
When the figurative dust settles, the astronauts are left tethered together, drifting in orbit. Ryan panics, but Matt’s cooler head prevails as the pair must try to maneuver their way back to the space station and find a way to safely get back to earth without their shuttle.
Written by director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and his son, Jonas, Gravity is not a typical science fiction film. Sure, there’s more than an eyeful of space, but it’s much more than that. The combination of its present-day setting and the simplicity of the story make it more accessible to a mainstream audience, while the amazing effects and visuals will satisfy even the most jaded genre fans. It’s also incredibly inventive; it’s safe to say that it is unlike anything that audiences have ever seen before. Gravity takes larger-than-life to a new level.
At its root, Gravity is a survival story. It’s a simple tale of a hopelessly lost pair of souls who must battle insurmountable odds to survive. The isolation and desolation of space obviously raise the stakes, but also helps to form a curious dichotomy; Ryan and Matt can see home, but can’t reach it…so close yet so far. Although the narrative and the theme are both simple, the execution is not.
The painstaking attention to detail that has been paid to the technical aspects of the film is nothing short of amazing. It’s the type of sci-fi film that comes around once in a generation, one that’s light on the fantasy, heavy on the spectacle, and technically airtight – something akin to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey or Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Like those films, Gravity is the total package: intelligent writing, inspired acting, and slick production.
Of course, Gravity is offered to audiences in 3D IMAX, and it should be seen that way if at all possible. In fact, seeing it in 2D would really defeat the purpose. Unlike most modern 3D films, the effect is not gimmicky or hokey at all; it’s used as a textural tool to put the viewer in the middle of the action. Gravity is the type of film that can restore a jaded viewer’s faith in the 3D fad. It’s easy to get lost in the spectacle of Gravity, but the experience is well worth it.
Aside from a handful of voiceover parts (one of which is played by A History of Violence‘s Ed Harris), there are really only two characters in Gravity, and even George Clooney’s Matt Kowalski is relegated to spacewalking and radio-talking throughout the movie. Therefore, the real star of Gravity is Sandra Bullock. It takes a very charismatic and experienced actor to carry an entire movie, and Bullock proves that she is completely up for the task.
Alfonso Cuaron’s long takes give her a chance to really show off her dramatic chops. Emotionally, she leaves it all on the screen, whether silently breaking down in a fit of hopelessness or courageously fighting for her life while floating aimlessly in space. Gravity is a challenging film for an actor, and Dr. Ryan Stone is a tough role, but Sandra Bullock is a talented lady, and she is able to provide a breath of humanity to a movie that is full of technology.
Score and Soundtrack
There is no sound in the vacuum of space. Or, at least, that’s what it would seem. Sound designer Glenn Freemantle (Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) pays special attention to the little things that would usually go unnoticed amidst the deafening silence – sounds like oxygen tanks, warning buzzers, radio distortion – that add to the authenticity and realism of the film.
And then there’s the music. Steven Price (Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, Attack the Block) contributes a sparse, airy score that, at times, is barely noticeable within the vast emptiness, yet is completely essential to the experience of the film. Price’s music is almost an extension of the sound design, with electronic and atonal samples sitting atop synthesized beds of strings and horns. Although Price’s score is getting a lot of attention, it is not at the forefront of Gravity; both the music and sound are there to support the story, and they do it perfectly.
With Gravity, it looks as if Alfonso Cuaron has found a perfect vehicle for his filmmaking style. His trademark long takes and action-following shots are perfectly suited for the vast expanse of open space. The viewpoint shifts from one character to another so smoothly and seamlessly that the viewer hardly realizes that the film is not cutting…the effect is flawless. Cuaron is able to frame and reframe shots, establish and re-establish space, all within the confines of a single take.
There are not enough superlatives to describe the film’s visual effect – breathtaking, jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring…they all apply. But, even without the slick effects and CG animation, Cuaron’s direction is what drives the film. Along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (who, when not shooting Cuaronâs movies, is usually keeping busy doing Terrence Malick’s films), Cuaron creates a setting that is much more than just visual effects. The CGI, matte backgrounds, and practical camera trickery all blend together to give Cuaron and his actors a great canvas on which to work, but in the end, it’s up to Cuaron and his actors to sell the film. As expected, Gravity is a technical marvel, but Cuaron makes sure to not let it hamper his storytelling.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Alfonso Cuaron
- Screenwriter(s): Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron
- Cast: Sandra Bullock (Dr. Ryan Stone), George Clooney (Matt Kowalsky)
- Editor(s): Alfonso Cuaron
- Cinematographer: Emmanuel Lubezki
- Music Score: Steven Price
- Country Of Origin: USA