Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s long anticipated new film, five years in the making, eloquently harnesses the raw mystical power of near space for self-reflective emotional weight as well as utilising its majestic, at times terrifying setting for staggeringly compelling action sequences.
The profound beauty of seeing our planet suspended like a glistening jewel in the vast blackness of space has long been regarded as a spiritually epiphanous experience like no other. Nothing else can provide the same sense of awe and perspective on life on planet Earth. From its very opening images, Gravity poignantly presents itself as a reflection of this by way of its astonishing scope.
Gravity unfolds as three astronauts make modifications to a satellite orbiting Earth, each talking with varying degrees of nonchalance, trepidation and excitement as they get on with their work. It soon becomes clear that Matt Kowalski, played by the characteristically charming George Clooney, is the most experienced of the group whereas Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is the least comfortable – this being her first mission. Kowalski dances around the satellite with his jetpack, doing what Clooney does best – cracking wise and flirting boyishly.
However, it’s not long before Kowalski’s tone shifts dramatically as it becomes apparent that the trio are in danger as rogue debris from another satellite hurtles towards them. Ferociously carving through the team, the debris detaches Stone from the satellite and sends her hopelessly hurtling alone into the dark, cold vastness of space. From this calamity Gravity propels forwards with eery momentum, a cosmic carousel that undulates imperceptibly between nail bitingly tense set pieces and genuinely devastating emotional lulls.
Sandra Bullock has never been better than she is here as Stone, subtly imbuing her character with all the emotional weight one would expect of a mother that’s lost her child. In Stone we find a female lead that’s an interesting counter point and extension of Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley in Alien – one of sci-fi’s landmark female leads.
To focus purely on the performances however would be remiss. The real stand out, truly unforgettable element of Gravity is without a doubt its camerawork. In fact, even describing it as camerawork seems like a disservice to the ground-breaking work that the film’s cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and director Alfonso Cuarón present here.
The camera moves fluidly, giving the viewer the impression of being in zero gravity alongside its characters, creating an experience that feels less like a film, more like a hyper-realistic virtual simulator. Seamlessly gliding between POV shots and twirling, discombobulating free-form movements, Gravity’s camerawork feels like a comparable contemporary accomplishment to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Never falling short of jaw droppingly impressive, this is a film that feels like a landmark step for Hollywood. Both in terms of technological achievement and narrative bravery, not to mention the already very impressive domestic box office returns that it has gained, practically unheard of for such an unfamiliar cinematic proposition.
It’s only once in a depressingly distant blue moon that a film comes around which makes you completely re-consider your prior use of adjectives. This is one such film. Gravity unfurls majestically onto the big screen, immediately creating and then sustaining a sense of awe and balletic rhythm by virtue of its astonishing technical prowess.
Not only a visual marvel, Gravity is also an emotional tour-de-force. Bullock and Clooney bring a genuine warmth to the film, a sense of humanity which sits quietly at its heart and creeps towards you through the coldness of space when you least expect it.