(12A) Running time: 91 minutes
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writers: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
The hype surrounding Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is almost as breathtaking as the film itself. People are calling it the best film of the year, the best 3D film ever, genius, ground-breaking and one of the best space films ever made. Believe the hype, and if you have not bought into the hype, just go and see it anyway and I can guarantee you will walk away joining in with the acclaim this film has been receiving. Without a doubt Gravity is the best space film in decades, and forget Avatar, THIS is how 3D should be done, and for the first time ever, I advise that if you see Gravity, you chose the 3D option (if in fact a 2D option is available!). To see this film in 2D would spoil your enjoyment, and seriously damage the excessive amount of work that went into making this visual treat.
Now, we already know that Cuaron is a filmmaker of a totally different level of brilliance, and can happily sit alongside Kubrick, Hitchcock and Spielberg as one of the greatest directors of all time. Considering he only has Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men to his credit, it is quite something to label a filmmaker among the all time greats, but watch Gravity, marvel at the jaw-dropping spectacle, and then come back and try and say Cuaron is not a genius. Gravity defies the boundaries of the safeness of knowing you’re watching a movie, and for the first time ever, so believable is this film, we can all actually experience what it is like to journey into space.
Opening with no credits, and just a quick message about how it is impossible to live in space, Gravity’s spectacle begins immediately. Silence, as we hover in space, a small white object in the distance, the sound of people talking on their intercoms vaguely heard, but getting slightly louder. The object gets bigger, the sounds become clearer: we see a space station, there are three people working on it, talking to each other and to mission control (cleverly employing the use of Ed ‘Apollo 13’ Harris’ voice). The camera glides in for a closer look, we see everything: George Clooney’s veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski having fun as he is close to breaking the “space walk” record, Sandra Bullock’s rookie Dr Ryan Stone working on fixing a small problem, and another guy in the background. Kowalski is jokey, fun and doing his best to keep the nervous Dr Stone relaxed. He has been here numerous times, and seems un-phased, while Dr Stone is clearly nervous. We, the viewer are nervous too: we are ACTUALLY in space, the camera floats at zero gravity into impossible areas, unbroken, simply drifting around the events watching the crew. It is like we are there with them, floating.
The sounds are stunning: no outside noise, just what the crew can hear, and ultimately what comes through their intercoms. Mission control warn of a missile accidentally striking a Russian space station also orbiting Earth, but there is no reason to panic. Back to marvelling at the still unbroken sequence, eyes wide open, transfixed on the screen, and the fact that Earth is below us, and (I’ll say it again!) we are actually floating in space! Every single inch of this film is masterfully created to get it absolutely right, and there is nothing, and I mean NOTHING in this film which can be classed as anything less than perfection. The music begins to build, mission control call back, panic sets in as the crew are told “abort! Abort!” Kowalski orders Stone to stop working, the pieces of the Russian space station have entered the same orbit path the crew are on, and it is hurtling towards them faster than a speeding bullet. We see pieces, fragments begin to show in the background, we continue to spin around, catching glimpses of the carnage to come, the crew try to get to safety, the music gets more intense, the edge of our seats are slipping away as we move closer and closer to it. The shrapnel collides with the crews ship, Stone is sent hurtling into space, and if you feel the need to scream, then now is the time to do it! The camera, STILL unbroken, watches Stone uncontrollably fly into space, she calls for help, Kowalski calls out to her, and only now, fifteen minutes in, does the camera finally break to another shot. Breathing can now commence again, sort of.
This opening sequence is one of the most amazing things I have EVER seen, but this is only fifteen minutes in. Cuaron has a ton of tricks up his sleeve for the next hour and fifteen minutes, but to tell you anything more about what happens would seriously spoil things. All I will say is if you can get through the first fifteen minutes without having some sort of panic attack, then boy does Gravity have an intense ride ahead, a ride that will seriously test your nerves and your ability to deal with dangerous situations. There is no comfort here where we can say “oh, why don’t you just do that” because we have no idea how to survive a disaster in space (let alone actually survive in space period!). So we have to take what we see as bible, and just watch, hope and pray for a good outcome.
What Cuaron delivers here, among the spectacle of space itself, is a life affirming journey of self discovery by Dr Stone. We don’t get any back story to begin with, but we learn about her through conversations, and we are with her every step of the way as she tries to live, cracks and wants to give up, is re-born (a foetal position shot later on is evidence that Gravity is so much more than a simple disaster film) and goes through it all again. Bullock delivers yet another Oscar worthy performance, and delivers one powerhouse of a performance that is emotional and incredibly believable. The terror on her face in one impossible shot is enough to prove that Bullock gave it her all, and is one of the finest actresses working in movies today. The shot in question see’s Cuaron’s camera close in on Bullock’s terrified face, and then somehow enter her visor, turn around and look at space through Stone’s eyes (and it is both beautiful and intensely scary). Clooney simply ‘does a Clooney’, but his voice, and natural charm are very much needed to calm the viewers (and Stone’s) nerves. If you ever did go to space, and disaster struck, you’d want Clooney (astronaut or not) talking to you!
Gravity delivers a spectacle, a spectacle of the most amazing special effects (hell, even tears reflect images as they hover in front of the camera), some of the most impressive sound and music you will EVER hear in a film, and a central performance by Bullock that is second to none. Gravity is perfection on every level, and those waffling on about how “isn’t it just Open Water in space”, or “who wants to see people just floating in space” seriously need to open their eyes, and go and see THE most amazing cinema experience you will ever have. After seeing Gravity, in all its grandeur and brilliance, I feel I have been to space now, THAT is how real this is. I also feel that cinemas should only be charging half the ticket price for this spectacular event, because I only needed the front half of my seat!
Gravity is just too good, too amazing and just, oh man it is just flawless! This IS the best 3D experience you will ever have, it IS the best space film in decades, it probably IS the best film of 2013, and I can promise you that you will have NEVER seen anything quite like it. I can also say that it is unlikely you will see anything quite like this ever again. This is well and truly what big, loud cinema screens were made for. Gravity is, simply put, astonishing!