Warner Bros. Pictures / Alfonso Cuarón / 2013 / USA
Running Time: 91 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Genre: Sci-Fi / Drama / Thriller
“In Space, Life Is Impossible”
Bio-Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first space mission under the command of the suave, veteran astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), commanding his final flight before retirement.
During a final routine spacewalk to undertake service and repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope, they are informed that a cloud of ultra-high speed debris from a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite has caused a chain reaction of destruction, and with it heading directly for their location, they must abort the mission with immediate effect.
Unable to escape the path of the bullet like debris, it soon crashes into their shuttle, leaving the satellite and spacecraft severely damaged.
With their communication with Mission Control severed they must find a way to survive, despite a rapidly decreasing supply of oxygen and with the debris rapidly circulating in a continual 90-minute orbit.
Any film that unfolds in space is undeniably going to draw comparison with the great sci-fi films which have preceded it, and Gravity is certainly no different, with its fine blend of visual beauty, character analysis and a genuine sense of fear recalling haunting echoes of the likes of ‘Solaris’ – both Andrei Tarkovsky’s 1972 original and Steven Soderbergh’s 2002 adaptation, which funnily enough also stars George Clooney, Ridley Scott’s sci-fi horror, ‘Alien’ (1979) and, of course, Stanley Kubrick’s landmark 1968 sci-fi masterpiece, ’2001: A Space Odyssey’.
Aesthetically speaking, Gravity is pretty much flawless. Visual effects are extraordinary well achieved courtesy of Visual Effects Supervisor Tim Webber and London-based Framestore, production design is stunning and it features some of the most effective and immersive 3D imagery I have seen.
However, looking at the film on an emotional level, Gravity is significantly more visceral and almost frightening than it is moving, and although there are some quite poignant moments weaved into the piece, this is the area in which I feel the film is somewhat lacking.
Take away the visuals and what ultimately remains is a fairly run of the mill, survival-thriller film, with an emotional depth that requires further development to fully connect on a more profound or hard-hitting level and deliver that emotional punch which would really render it something extra special.
Performances are very impressive indeed, and although George Clooney is his usual charismatic, reliable self, he is utilised mainly as a means of lighter relief, with Bullock carrying the majority of the dramatic substance of the film, almost single-handedly, to remarkable effect. We are also treated to the dulcet tones of Ed Harris, further raising the level of star quality as the voice of Mission Control.
In terms of authenticity, I am aware that the renowned American astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson was heard openly outlining the various plot holes and errors that feature in the film over social media channels earlier in the week, however for those of us who aren’t so astronomically enlightened, the film delivers one of the more powerful and convincing explorations of space the cinema has seen; Even now knowing the numerous scientific errors Tyson outlined does not at all detract from what is an incredibly well composed film.
Though in some fields the film has misleadingly been categorised as a sort of large-scale specialist, art-house type film, do not be lulled in to a false sense of belief. This is most definitely not the case, and Gravity proves a top class example of a big budget Hollywood blockbuster at its most impressive.
The cinematography from the five time Academy Award-nominated Mexican cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki (best known for his collaborations with Terrence Malick, and for his work on Alfonso Cuarón’s 2006 dystopian sci-fi drama, Children of Men, for which he received one of his five nominations) is quite breath-taking, and the powerful and often moving soundtrack from Steven Price is perfectly constructed and only further enhances the creative quality of the film.
Directed, Co-edited and Co-produced by Alfonso Cuarón, and Co-written by Cuarón and his son Jonás, Gravity more than fulfils the compelling, awe-inspiring brief it sets out to achieve, and from the unbroken, near twenty-minute opening sequence, with the camera gliding freely around the satellite to the breath-taking backdrop of planet Earth, to the dark, silent vacuum of outer space into which our central characters terrifyingly descend, the film sets a new benchmark in terms of the advancement of cinematic technology.
A thoroughly entertaining, often claustrophobic and highly immersive work of incredible vision, suspense and intensity.