Gravity is the first feature film from director Alfonso Cuarón in seven years, and considering that his previous work includes Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and the absolutely stellar Children of Men, I was excited to see it. The near-unanimous praise it's received from numerous other critics made me even more excited.
So what did I think of the finished product? To be completely honest, I don't think it's a perfect film, or even Cuarón's best (I would personally pick Children of Men for that). Despite that, it's still a very well-done movie that is amazing on a technical level, and one that completely succeeds at being tense and gripping when it wants to be.
Almost every part of the film takes place in Earth's orbit, following the novice shuttle engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and longtime pro astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) on a routine maintenance expedition for the Hubble telescope. Serious danger soon reveals itself in the form of a sea of debris leftover from a Russian missile test, which makes its first appearance early on and tears the American shuttle to shreds, leaving Stone and Kowalsky as the only survivors. From there, the two aim to find a way to reach a neighboring space station and return to Earth.
Despite both receiving top billing, it should be stressed that this is much more Bullock's movie than Clooney's, whose focus and screentime definitely pale in comparison. Despite this, and the fact that neither character is given that complex or memorable of a personality, I still bought their comradery, and thought that they both gave good performances.
The film is wonderfully shot. I'm sure the majority of it is a lot of green-screened CG and wire work, but it looks seamless, bringing both a beauty and eerieness to the void of space. It also sticks to real-world physics by keeping things silent in terms of sound effects, relying more on an intense musical score to engage the audience.
So what exactly is keeping me from declaring this movie a flawless masterpiece like many others? Despite being only an hour and a half long, some parts, both fast-paced and mellow, feel a little stretched out. For example, after the stellar opening action scene where the satellite gets torn apart, we see Stone spinning helplessly through space for quite some time, and I have to say that they could have cut down on the amount of time just showing her spinning endlessly before the plot resumed. And even when there are some great action scenes going on, every now and then, I felt like they were overstaying their welcome, and I was ready for something else to happen.
Thankfully, these parts aren't very numerous, and seem to diminish as the film progresses. The last ten or fifteen minutes in particular are edge-of-your-seat exciting, with a satisfying payoff and the best musical track of the film to close things out. Special mention must also be given to the film's use of 3D, namely one specific disaster scene where shards of debris fly right at the camera. It does a great job of making you feel right in the thick of things.
Gravity is not for the faint of heart, due both to its heavy action and a gruesome look at some of the less lucky victims early on, but if you think you can handle it, I'd recommend it. I can't call it completely perfect or one of the best films I've ever seen, but I can call it a very well-made and gripping experience, and one that should be seen by anyone interested in it.