Much like 2010’s film “Buried,” “Gravity” presents an exceedingly simple premise wherein suspense is built upon prolonging a deadly predicament. The intensity escalates solely from a diminishing chance at survival. But just like Rodrigo Cortes’ effort, writer/director Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” retreads the same material and pushes repetitive thrills one too many times for its own good. A few twists and unpredictable scenarios pop up to keep the intrigue alive for an impressive length, but a lack of solid character development and plot cheapens the momentum. The performances are compelling when the drama isn’t forced by blatant dialogue, but the concept doesn’t adequately fill a 90-minute thriller.
Mission Commander Matthew Kowalsky (George Clooney) has a bad feeling about his latest assignment on the SDS 157. Along with medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), the two astronauts are tasked with repairing communication panels during a spacewalk. He’s an experienced veteran, admiring the view; she’s a nervous rookie, anxious to complete the job. When a Russian satellite explodes nearby, sending speeding debris towards them, they are forced to make an emergency evasive maneuver that leaves Stone hurtling into space and their shuttle in ruins. With fuel and oxygen rapidly running out, Kowalsky must rescue his partner and reach a neighboring space station before the lethal wreckage circles the Earth and destroys their only chance at returning home.
It’s a bit misleading to suggest in the title sequence that there are no forces affecting the astronauts floating in space. Because of the orbit the various satellites and shuttles occupy, numerous elements interfere with their movement – many of the most harrowing sequences involve plenty of inertia impeded by gravity. The notion that sound is absent is also present – and inaccurate in the instances when characters are inside the space station where oxygen exists – but of course, the movie utilizes an abundance of sound effects nonetheless. Like the tagline for “Alien” (“In space no one can hear you scream.”), though that movie took place primarily indoors, it would only be soundless outside of spacecraft. It’s also somewhat unfair to categorize this film as science-fiction; while it occurs in space, all of the ideas are intended to be completely realistic and contemporary, not futuristic.
The purpose of “Gravity” is not to test the knowledge, limitations, or believability of the rocketeers’ capabilities, but rather to showcase intensity and duress for the sake of intensity and duress. The isolation, extreme temperatures, easy disorientation, and interminably decreasing physical control are terrifying enough. But it’s certainly not competent that Kowalsky goads Stone into small talk as she continues to count down her rapidly diminishing oxygen level (his nearly exhausted supply similarly doesn’t persuade him to cease rattling off status updates to Houston), or when, after reaching a point of halted tethered tension, Kowalsky claims to still be pulling away and causing cables to unravel. Toward the end, the nonstop nature of the contrived, manipulative disasters and peril practically reaches a level of comedy. How much misfortune can befall two people? At least the occasional first-person point of view increases the franticness, the plot isn’t devoid of a few surprises, and the special effects are complex and exhilarating (the 3D is once again pointless).
- The Massie Twins (GoneWithTheTwins.com)