Many young film goers, blown away watching Jurassic Park, came out of cinemas interested in either dinosaurs or film itself. Or both in some cases. Gravity will do exactly the same.
Although it might actually put people off space.
Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first space walk after six months of training tasked with repairing the Hubble telescope; with her is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), an old hand at this space lark, nearing retirement, who floats around the frame cracking jokes and making quips. Before too long and all within one masterful fifteen minute long take, a trademark of director Alfonso Cuarón, we’re introduced to all our characters, their situation and what will be the cause of some problems for the remainder of the film. Debris from a Russian satellite is on a collision course with our two astronauts and when it inevitably hits, Stone is sent careening into the cold black of space. As the title card informs us, life in space is impossible so with her oxygen rapidly decreasing, Stone has to find a way (or perhaps a reason) to survive in the blind.
And that’s essentially Gravity in a nutshell; from its bowel loosening-ly loud opening musical cue to its last shot, Gravity is a masterpiece of economical storytelling, stellar performances, pulse pounding score and visuals that inspire wonder. I mentioned Jurassic Park because there are shots in Gravity every bit the spine tingling equal of the T-Rex breaking through the fence. Cuarón uses and outdoes his previous extended single takes with camerawork so fluid and beautiful it almost defies belief; as the “camera” moves around Stone, into her helmet, through her visor and back out again, all within the one shot; we’re privy to the panic and fear she feels yet also able to appreciate the beauty and terror of the sights we’re seeing ostensibly from her point of view. Its performance and high tech CG wizardry married together seamlessly. CG so good it’s impossible to see the joins.
Bullock is the star of the show here as the film (sometimes quite literally) revolves around her, and she is more than up to the task. The film could easily be viewed as a ninety minute thrill ride as Stone struggles to stay alive throughout the various difficulties the universe throws at her, and looking at it that way is fine; you’ll not find a more buttock clenchingly tense movie this year (sorry, Captain Phillips) and once the opening scene eventually calms down you may find you’ve been holding your breath. But there is so much more going on here, much more than a simple action movie. For all its technical bells and whistles (more on this later) at its heart Gravity tells a very human story, which Bullock captures perfectly: why fight to survive if you’ve got nothing to live for?
As more or less the only other character in the film, Kowalski, George Clooney is a calming presence both for Stone and for the audience, never losing his cool in the face of adversity. And casting gorgeous George was a masterstroke, the actor’s leisurely delivery and soothing voice the perfect antidote to the chaos that’s unfolding.
All this would be for nothing if the film’s visuals weren’t believable. Everything in Gravity looks phenomenal; the view of the sunrise over the Earth is every bit as mesmerising as Kowalski says, the scenes of destruction are white knuckle stuff and the moments with characters just floating around in the vastness of space are, depending on the situation, dreamlike or terrifying.
And for once, it’s a film that demands to be seen in 3D. On the biggest screen possible.
A visually stunning thrill ride, with smarts and heart to boot. Ironically for a film set in the vacuum of space, Gravity is a breath of fresh air.
Review by Jonathan Cardwell.
Thanks to our sponsors at the Odyssey Cinemas
Don’t forget to book your tickets for Gravity at the Odyssey Cinemas here.