Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Writers: Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Running Length: 91 minutes
Synopsis: Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) in command. But on a seemingly routine mission, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalski completely alone—tethered to nothing but each other and spiralling out into the blackness. The deafening silence tells them they have lost any link to Earth…and any chance for rescue. As fear turns to panic, every gulp of air eats away at what little oxygen is left. But the only way home may be to go further out into the terrifying expanse of space.
Review: Gravity is a master-class in how 3D can be used to a film’s advantage and to deepen the audience’s immersion. Despite running a mere 91 minutes, this is an intense and visually stunning movie that works best in IMAX 3D (completely worth the price of admission), with a stellar performance from Sandra Bullock that guarantees an Oscar nomination, if not a win. Although it’s not entirely without flaws, Gravity is easily one of the best movies released this year so far, and should be seen on the big screen as home video is unlikely to be able to successfully replicate the transcendent viewing experience.
The film opens with a single 20-minute take, and almost all of the exposition and scene-setting occurs in this sequence. It is a great technical achievement, and the scene is one that sets the tone of the whole movie. A caveat to those prone to motion sickness: the latter minutes of this sequence could be taxing on your sensibilities, since it’s set in the first-person POV of Ryan Stone.
What ensues after the stage is set is an extremely intense hour of cinema – although the structure is very straightforward, the fact that Ryan Stone is essentially on her own (George Clooney’s character functions more like a cameo appearance despite him getting equal top billing to Sandra Bullock) in the vast confines of space means the challenge of performing even the simplest acts seems near insurmountable. Combined with what seems like an unrelenting wave of bad luck, it’s almost physically exhausting, in a good way, to witness Stone’s struggles to survive.
This is definitely Sandra Bullock’s strongest performance in her career, far outshining her somewhat overrated (Oscar-winning) performance in The Blind Side. Bullock has to carry nearly the entire movie on her own, and has no other characters to play off of for the majority of the movie (even Tom Hanks at least had Mr Wilson in Cast Away). It does veer a little towards schmaltz in the final minutes of the film, but she is definitely the one to beat in 2014’s Oscar race.
Because of the setting in space, viewing Gravity in 3D in the largest format possible will definitely aid in the sense of immersion one gets from the film. Alfonso Cuaron has succeeded in harnessing technology to deepen the viewing experience – it’s rare that one reacts instinctively to “duck” from a flying piece of debris without feeling a sense of cheesiness, but that’s exactly what I did on multiple occasions in Gravity. The 3D amplifies the vastness of space, yet paradoxically it also makes the viewer feel even more intimately linked to and focused on Bullock’s performance. It’s hard to tell how much of the experience will be lost on smaller screens at home, but to not at least view this once in a darkened theatre would be missing out on one of the movie events of the year.
* * * ½ (out of four stars)