When a storm of debries from a shot down satellite surprises a shuttle from the ISS (International Space Station) the surviving astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) must fight to stay alive and make it back to safety in one piece.
It has been seven years since Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men – a brilliant and layered science fiction film weaving social and polticial commentary together with fantastic characters and staggering images.
Seven years is an awfully long time for a director to follow this movie whose critical praise has only increased since then. The obvious question is was it worth the wait?
The short answer would be:
If waiting seven more years for another movie like this I have no problem.
When it comes to memorable moments from Children of Men most will cite the sequence where the camera seems to trail Clive Owen through a battlefield for more than 7 minutes. Those overlong sequences surely capture Cuarón’s attention and Gravity tops that without getting gimmicky. I don’t know how long the opening shot was but it was handled so well I was thrown out of the movie for a second when the first cut happened. Up to this point the entire movie had a fluidity that I had never before experienced. And while it may lead to some people once again pinning this effect on 3D it is like always the camera and the artist behind it that is working the magic – not the stereoscopy.
However, compared to Children of Men it is much easier to spot how the continuous shot is done here is much easier to spot since every time the camera pans away to an astonishingly beautiful shot of earth or the spaceship we know it is used to bridge two shots of the actors. But that doesn’t lessen the impact of the pictures. It feels as if the camera is floating in space with the astronauts.
Life of Pi without the preaching
Last year’s Life of Pi was also a visual marvel and won some well deserved Oscars. Gravity will probably be this year’s Life of Pi when it comes to the Oscar race. Best Special Effects is a lock and Best Cinematography probably as well.
What I find so much more refreshing about Gravity is the fact that the movie does not hit you over the head with its message. After all the beautiful images last year Ang Lee had to make sure that we got the message that it was God all along. In Gravity the audience is left to make up their own mind. Sure there is a character arc that links the story together but the movie is more about the feeling of being in space and being alone. Much like Sandra Bullock’s character we are left alone with our thoughts and try to make sense to them.
The initial reviews for the movie were all over the visuals and they are undoubtedly praise worthy. But my fear was that Cuarón might have lost himself in the spectacle, as is so often the case. But my fears were completely unjustified. The effects never overtake the drama and without the actors everything would be worthless. George Clooney seems to be pretty much playing himself but for this role it works as he is a charmer who is a bit full of himself. And his over confident attitude actually is the right balance to Bullock’s introvert role.
After The Blind Side (Bullock’s Oscar win 2009) I was not to fond to hear her being cast for this movie but she completely won me over. Her portrayal of Dr. Stone is spot on and completely engaging from start to finish.
Original Science Fiction
The real beauty of Gravity is that after all the half hearted science fiction attempts we finally get blessed with an original story that successfully melds human emotions with technology. To me the fascinating thing about these stories is not the moneyshot of spaceships but how the technology puts us into new situations and has us face new challenges. In the end good sci-fi always uses this technological backdrop to find out something about humanity. And feeling lonely has never been easier to achieve than floating alone in space.
Like Children of Men this new film is already a classic of sci-fi storytelling.
So much to praise
There is so much good stuff in Gravity that it might get hard not to sound redundant. It is just so refreshing to finally see a movie again and not have a single thing to complain. Not a line of dialogue or some character moments or stuff that went nowhere… nothing.
Also the running time of the movie clocks in around 90 minutes and there is no ounce of fat to be found. So many bloated blockbusters can learn from this. The film is so perfectly paced and because I knew it had a short running time I was on the edge of my seat thinking that any second now everything could be over.
Gravity is the saving grace after this summer of so-so movies. It puts the science back into science fiction and juggles drama, spectacle and entertainment without us ever knowing how much work it must have been.
It surely is one of the best movies this year and I will be highly surprised if it won’t be a big Oscar contender – fingers crossed for the first science fiction movie to win best picture. The only complaints it might get would be “I am not into spacestuff” and “well it’s not THAT good” – and if too much praise is the biggest problem the movie has then we truly got lucky.