From the moment the first trailer of Gravity came out, I had been eagerly awaiting its release. And as the film neared its date of release, the hype & expectations only got bigger & stronger. Plus, with early reviews from critics & viewers lauding it for being exactly what I was hoping it to be, I went into the theater with sky-high expectations, fearing that it might turn out to be a disappointment just like so many films have in the past. And now that I’ve seen it, I can only bear witness to the fact that Gravity, unlike most films, effortlessly manages to live up to all its hype & expectations and is an unforgettable spacewalk from start to finish. Making remarkable use of 3D & exhibiting excellence in all departments of filmmaking, Gravity not only succeeds as one of the most satisfying & fulfilling cinematic experiences in a long time but also as one of the most dazzling & visually captivating films ever made. Arguably the best film of the year, Gravity is an awe-inspiring motion picture that restores the beauty, wonder & amazement this filmmaking canvas had been missing for a long time.
Gravity opens with a pleasing view of the Earth from space & introduces the only two characters we end up witnessing throughout its 90 minutes of runtime. Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a Mission Specialist, out on her first space shuttle mission, who is also struggling with sickness issues while adjusting to this new life in the infinite. Overseeing this mission for the last time is Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a highly optimistic, cheerful & charming space veteran who plans to retire once they return to the planet. While they’re out on a routine spacewalk, disaster strikes when they are informed that the Russians have blown their own satellite which has caused a chain reaction of debris hurling towards their spaceship. But before they can act, they find themselves instantly caught in the debris storm that ends up destroying their spaceship and leaves both Kowalsky & Stone completely alone & tethered to nothing but each other while they spiral out in the infinite darkness of the universe. The rest of the film mainly focusses on Dr. Stone’s journey as she finds hope & will to survive in the face of inevitable death and also covers the themes of loss, isolation, resilience, mortality & rebirth in a concise manner.
Co-written & directed by one of the “Three Amigos of Cinema”, Gravity is Alfonso Cuarón’s finest film to date & in all likelihood, his most personal. He is one of the few directors whose works have been equally well received by viewers & critics alike, with the former admiring his storytelling abilities while the latter respecting his cinematic vision & technical precision. And with Gravity, Cuarón has taken a simple story of a catastrophe, pushed it closer to realism through immense detailing & accurate science, married it with liberal arts by refining every filmmaking aspect, and finally encapsulated the entire film with a whole new dimension to provide a jaw-dropping experience of sheer awe & astonishment. The direction is an absolute class & even the screenplay pays considerable attention to the emotional impact this film was able to make visually. With the main plot surfacing on-screen just minutes into the film, Gravity is able to grip its viewers’ attention from the very beginning & never lets go until the very end. The two characters it puts up on-screen as contrasting identities also adds a human dimension to this film and the arc of Sandra Bullock’s character is a fine portrayal of resilience in the aftermath of a disaster that also demonstrates the indomitable will of the human spirit to survive against all odds.
Coming to the performances, there are just two people we interact with in this film, and precisely one for the major part of the 90 minutes. Sandra Bullock stars as Dr. Ryan Stone, an inexperienced newcomer out in the deep space on her very first assignment and this film, as a whole, is exclusively her journey as we learn about her traumatic past, and witness her vulnerable character going through plethora of emotions ranging from fear, frustration & hopelessness to rediscovered resilience, willingness to live & eventual spiritual reincarnation. And Bullock simply nailed her character with a strong, emotionally layered performance & terrific screen presence that easily qualifies as one of the finest performances of the year, so far and arguably her career-best. George Clooney plays the veteran astronaut, Matt Kowalsky, the only other survivor who, amidst all the chaos, does everything possible to restore the calmness in Dr. Stone’s psyche and also motivates her to keep going despite continuous setbacks. This character was simply tailor-made for Clooney who just had to be himself as the high-spirited, charming & witty personality and is also responsible for the little comic relief in what is an unforgiving & harrowing depiction of life in space. Throughout its runtime, Gravity also pays tribute to a number of space film classics, including 2001: A Space Odyssey, Alien, Apollo 13 & surprisingly Pixar’s WALL•E as well.
And now to the more amazing aspects that made this film a truly one-of-its-kind experience. Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubesky is pure artistry that introduces some new innovations in 3D photography, employs the long, continuous & unbroken single takes (which is one of Cuarón’s trademarks) to immerse its viewers into its infinite world and with its fluid movements & contrasting shots, which blends the heartwarming view of Earth with bleakness of the entire universe, does a superb job in narrating the film visually. Editing trims the entire film into 90 minutes but these are great 90 minutes with not a single dull moment in the film and was also enough for the gradual development of its characters, considering that there are only two people in the entire film. Apart from the actors, almost every single thing in this film is computer-generated and yet the film retains such high degree of realism with its accurate depiction of zero gravity universe, spacewalks, explosions etc that it only signifies the meticulous attention to detail that went into the making of this film and this, overall, is a major leap for VFX in cinema. The silence of outer space did serve as accurate science but it never stopped Steven Price to come up with a score that not only evoked our emotional response to the film but with its loud, intense & unsparing tracks turned this already effective thriller into an absolute nightmare of escalating terror.
On an overall scale, Gravity is a remarkable work of cinematic art & excellence that will be discussed for years to come. There rarely comes a cinema that triumphs on so many levels & even rarer when you add another visual dimension to it. Impressively directed, deftly written, strongly performed, cleverly edited, swiftly paced, gorgeously photographed, magnificently scored, visually captivating & flawlessly balancing all of it from start to finish, Gravity is as rewarding an experience emotionally as it is visually and it’s virtually impossible to not admire its expert technical execution. From the very opening, it grabs the attention of its viewers with its horrifying depiction of a catastrophe, made all the more intense by the accompanied score & those moments keep coming back throughout the 90 minutes as everything that could possibly go wrong does go wrong in the film. Cuarón also added a number of philosophical & spiritual references into the film’s plot but the biggest strength of this film, in my opinion, is the tense atmosphere of claustrophobia it manages to create even in the vast, infinite & endless realms of deep space.
Although it is heavily influenced from a number of disaster films, the overall experience it provides, especially in 3D, is unlike anything put on screen before. I’m not saying that it works only in 3D. The plot will work on a two dimensional screen just as well, but the third dimension does add a great deal of depth into the film which amplified & made the entire film more special & personal. I can’t stress anymore on how visually captivating, emotionally satisfying & near-perfect this film is. You’ve to believe the hype & see it for yourself. Easily the movie of the year so far, Gravity is the closest we’ve come to experiencing outer space in cinema and is an exquisite & riveting thriller unlike anything before. It’s absolutely worthy of your time & money, so don’t give it a miss because it’ll be a long time before we have a big screen extravaganza like this again. Plus, if possible, experience it on the massive IMAX screen because if there ever has been a film that deserves to be seen in IMAX 3D, it’s Gravity. Strongly recommended. 3D viewing strictly advised.