As agitating as it may be, Alfonso Cuarón’s ‘Gravity’ literally takes audiences to another place. Mega-stars Clooney and Bullock do not distract from what’s so vividly thrown at us, that ultimate fear of death and the vastness of outer space, or rather drifting off into it. Alone.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) find their mission in space torn apart in many forms. When debris rips at them from a distant Russian assignment gone bad, the two become separated from the Explorer and must desperately try to use their few resources to reconnect and find a way to survive.
We’re engulfed by tenseness, switching from one horrible case scenario to the next. This sensory overload, from stations being destroyed by debris in orbit to heightened anxiety over low oxygen and the elements, makes you wonder how a happy ending could be possible. Why would anyone want to go to outer space after seeing this movie? And we ask ourselves this because ‘Gravity’ is effecting. It tests the limits of possibility for acting, filmmaking, and a certain perspective of space.
Both Clooney and Bullock are seasoned to give technically ripe performances, neither failing to do their job. Bullock does push past Clooney here, not just for more screen time, but because Clooney does little different here to set him apart from other roles. He’s good; he sounds intelligent and calm with a dash of wit and a brave spirit that serves useful when feeling pretty doomed floating into space, but real astronauts probably wouldn’t be as calm as Clooney. Bullock on the other hand is more appropriately attached, ranging through sincere frustration, panic, doubt, and survival instincts.
The details alone are extremely gripping. 3D enhances the ‘Gravity’ experience, especially for a film like this where movement takes on various paces and predictabilities, but goes for bold with or without it. Bullock’s rate of breathing brings up our awareness of her angst and it’s interesting to hear the overall chaos up close and then view it at a distance where sound can’t carry, a sad silence. The bright light, the temperature changes, as well as the anti-gravity work (spoiler: Bullock’s tears will float) gives the film truly signature touches.
‘Gravity’ achieves what it sets out to do, developing a high stakes zero gravity story with a huge special effects base that comes off as believable with a cast of two. Cuarón creates a film that brings depth and pressure to a situation far from our grasps. With a generally good script (a couple corny lines don’t ruin the film) written by the director and his son Jonás Cuarón, ‘Gravity’ is as compelling as it is a visual victory.