I might be the last person on Earth to see this one in the cinema. Still, better late than never. Gravity (2013), directed by the wonderful Alfonso Cuarón, is an incredibly stressful but ultimately beautiful film that will make you feel as if you’ve run a marathon by its conclusion. We begin with a breathtaking view of Earth from space. Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is working on the malfunctioning computer components of her space shuttle Explorer, whilst Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) regales the team with personal anecdotes. Their good mood soon sours, however, as a Russian missile strike on an out of use satellite unintentionally causes debris to collide with the Explorer, putting Stone and Kowalski in an incredibly dangerous situation. They must use all of their resources, both practical knowledge and personal resilience, to survive in the most bleak of environments.
I was hooked on this film as soon as I saw the first breathtaking view of Earth from space. The cinematography in Gravity is gorgeous, and there is an almost tangible contrast between the endless reaches of space and the claustrophobic reality inside Dr Stone’s helmet. Upon seeing beautiful images of Earth from above, your heart soars, and when you view the world from Dr Stone’s point of view, your world shrinks. The dizzying spinning of perpetual motion in space makes you feel queasy and stressed (at least, it did for me). I didn’t see Gravity in 3D, so I can’t vouch for those effects. But even in 2D, the space debris whizzing past the space shuttle and the constant spinning made me feel a bit dizzy, so I can’t imagine how crazy the 3D experience of this film might be.
It is a commonly known fact that there’s no sound in space, because there are no air molecules in the void of space to vibrate and therefore make noises (simple explanation). It’s always so funny when you see films set in space where things are exploding with huge crashing and banging noises, because it indicates a total lack of scientific understanding. Luckily, Alfonso Cuarón is a genius. This is where the simply amazing music comes into play in Gravity. Composed by Steven Price, the music in this film is so perfect; not only in terms of composition and emotion, but also in terms of its coordination with the film. It seemed to me that where I half expected an explosion noise to occur, or to hear the scraping noise of debris colliding in space, there was music that was an interpretation of this sound and further solidified the effectiveness of a scene. The music is the perfect counterpart to what we see on screen, and this is exactly what film scores should do.
Sandra Bullock shows an impressive amount of depth in her role as Dr Stone, the brand new astronaut who experiences this horrible event on her first trip into space. I have to admit that I haven’t been too impressed by her in the past, but then again, I haven’t seen The Blind Side (2009). This film has shown me that she has a lot more to offer than Speed (1994) and Miss Congeniality (2000). George Clooney is just as charming and ruggedly handsome as ever in his role as veteran astronaut Lieutenant Kowalski. The two had an engaging charisma on screen which was actually relieving to watch when the events on screen reached crisis point.
I have to also praise this film for its effective use of exposition. Usually I’m pretty nitpicky when it comes to the obvious and ham-fisted use of exposition, but in this film there was only one moment where it was immediately obvious to me, very early on in the piece. The film makes good use of Dr Kowalski’s instructions to Dr Stone: keep talking to Houston, because eventually someone might pick up a signal and be able to hear your distress call. This means that the dialogue can continue in the face of potentially dwindling cast members, allowing complicated space concepts to be explained and backstory to be further explored. It also allows Dr Stone to explore complex existential themes in a sort of oxygen-deprived stream of consciousness regarding life, death, loneliness, purpose…
You should see this film at the cinema because seeing it on the big screen is half of the experience of the film. Watching Gravity is an immersive experience, and with the surround sound and a giant screen, you might as well be lost in space along with Bullock and Clooney. As previously mentioned, this film is no walk in the park. You will feel stressed and frustrated at poor Dr Stone’s consistently bad luck. At the same time, you will be stunned by the film’s visuals and the beauty of Earth from above, and moved by its music. If you’re going to pick anything to see in the cinema, see this one. It is an experience that you cannot have anywhere else.
Is it worth paying for a ticket? YES! A million times yes.
Watch the trailer here.