Set entirely in outer space, the film is a work of art, glorious in the way it captures the beauty of circling our blue planet in an infinite universe.
Cast: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Rarely does one encounter a film that excites you visually but leaves you feeling continuously weary at the same time. Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity suffers from the same mind-boggling setback. A visual masterpiece, it was impossible to look away from the screen lest you should miss even a second of the stunning cinematography. Set entirely in outer space, the film is a work of art, glorious in the way it captures the beauty of circling our blue planet in an infinite universe. Not a big fan of 3D, I understood in the first scene itself how 3D actually added to the experience of the film. Watching George Clooney and Sandra Bullock floating about in space, one could actually feel the absence of gravity, the need to hold on to something, and the complete nothingness within which they floated. At several points during the film I found myself reaching out to touch, or ducking to avoid matter that seemed to fly into the camera. To experience images as sensory devices, triggering real physical reactions was indeed magical — something I last experienced in Jurassic Park perhaps. Excellent use of 3D, no doubt.
And yet, the film didn’t quite engage me the way I had expected it to. Essentially, a personal journey of a mother struggling to overcome the death of her daughter, the film didn’t really invest much time in building on this aspect, in effect rendering her possible redemption incidental to and not crucial to the narrative of the film. An American crew repairing the Hubble telescope is suddenly struck by satellite debris which destroys their ship, breaking communication with Earth and killing everyone except Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). The rest of the film follows these two as they attempt to somehow make their way back to Earth.
While the film absolutely nails recreating outer space — offering interesting point of view shots that never seem to focus on anything (there is after all nothing to focus on) — it lacks depth for it struggles to get into its character’s inner experiences. I wanted to hear more of Bullock, see her fears and anxieties. She was after all a medical doctor in outer space! Surely, there was scope to etch out her character more. At the end of the day, the film seemed too controlled, concise, and formulaic.
The real heroes of the film are Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography and Steven Price’s superb soundtrack. You leave the theatre with astonishingly beautiful images in your head and Price’s disconcerting music. Cuaron also uses silence brilliantly, case in point leaving the sequence where a satellite is destroyed by high speed debris, completely mute, highlighting the extent and speed of devastation.
The film is a technical marvel, in keeping with his previous film Children of Men where he shot a stunning five minute long single-shot chase sequence. Bullock gave her best performance to date as a deeply conflicted and troubled mother. My biggest grouse would be that I wanted to see more of Clooney, but then that‘s just greedy me. A must-see nonetheless.