Gravity (2013) Review

gravity poster 1Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Writers: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonas Cuarón

Certificate: 12A     Running Time: 1hr 31 Mins

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris (voice) 

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Plot: When a barrage of debris destroys their space shuttle, astronauts Dr Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) are left stranded in space with dwindling supplies of oxygen. The pair desperately seek to survive and a means to return home.

Believe the hype. Gravity is a mind blowing cinematic experience. Cuarón has crafted astonishing feast for the senses that must be experienced on the silver screen. Gravity is a riveting spectacle that is equally mesmerising and nerve shredding in its cosmic glory. A visual milestone of contemporary cinema, the landmark picture bears likeness to that of Kubrick’s timeless 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) or more recently the likes of Cameron’s Avatar (2009) and Nolan’s Inception (2010). Although the SFX are drawing worldwide acclaim, it is the emotional core that radiates a heart rendering sensibility that gives meaning to the splendor on display. In absence of such resonance, the longevity of a film comprised largely of special effects would soon be cast into doubt.

gravity 2 The inimitable Sandra Bullock plays the role of the grieving engineer with subtlety and grace. Her lengthy screen time encompasses a spectrum of human emotion, from unequivocal desperation through to unrelenting loneliness, her superb performance is a sure fire guarantee to earn an Academy award nomination. Her character is defined by the grief of losing her daughter in an accident, the feeling of loss is likened to staring into an infinite abyss. The unnerving expanse and solitude of space forms a striking metaphor for the emotional turmoil suffered by Stone (Bullock). The vacuous existence and escape from worldly affairs offered by her mission is immense, there is no need for social interaction or to face her fears. Despite her best efforts to escape her waking life, there is a realization that her demons are enduring in her subconscious. Whether hiding under a subterranean rock or lost in a distant corner of the cosmos; there is simply no escaping the mental test unless it is prepared for and met head on.

The rapidly destructive debris that causes terminal damage to the craft can be interpreted as a physical manifestation of Stone’s fractious inner thoughts spiraling relentlessly out of control. It is those doubts which are the most destructive in eroding at sanity . In the most poignant scene of the film, Stone is overcome with joy as she taps into a radio feed from Earth. The sounds of life and notably a dog’s bark spark a frenzied reaction. The imagery of her tears floating in mid-air is filmmaking at its very best and ensures the human element is centric to the film.

The notion of rebirth is overtly channeled into Stone’s spiritual journey, when the engineer finds solace in a spacecraft she elegantly takes the fetal position. It is asgravity image though her intergalactic tribulations have triggered a spiritual and physical reset. The near death experience reinvigorating her mental state and lending itself to the rediscovery of the vitality of life which was long lost after her trauma. The role Matt Kowalski (Clooney) as veteran astronaut is an intriguing one. In stark contrast to Stone, he is symbolic of hope and offers the comic relief in an otherwise dark film. On many levels, he can be characterized as an archetypal guardian angel figure.

Some may find the slow burning nature of Gravity a tad dull following the sensational action sequences. A lot has been made as to the scientific credibility of Cuarón’s vision but these detractors are missing the point entirely. It is a refreshing sign that a filmmaker has created an entirely original film borne from his endless imagination and specific details are meaningless. This is neither a literary adaptation nor a remake; the importance of Gravity should not be underestimated in an age where originality is at a premium.

The visual excellence and sheer beauty of Earth’s depiction from afar is awe inspiring. If ever there was a film which must be seen on the big screen, then this is most certainly it. A tribute to the power of cinema and the conception of 3D, the father/son Cuarón combination (together with the London SFX house Framestore) has yielded an incredible montage of visual artistry and earth shattering emotion. Gravity is sure to be a contender at the Academy awards in 2014 and certainly transpires as one of the must see films of 2013.

Click here to find out what happened when I attended a Gravity masterclass with Alfonso Cuaron at London Film Festival