It’s been a while since I’ve left a theater feeling exhausted because I was completely immersed in a film, to the point where my heart is literally pounding as I walk to my car. With Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón has made a film so intense and so real that its more than a film. It’s a complete experience, one that I don’t think I’ve ever quite experienced in a theater before, and probably won’t ever again.
Gravity is Cuarón’s first film in 7 years (since 2006’s Children Of Men). He’s made the wait more than worth it. Cuarón immediately draws you into the film with a majestic 13-minute opening shot that showcases the ability of film when you push it to its true limit. After all, isn’t that what space exploration is? Pushing the limits of man to the fullest extent?
This is what Cuarón does with Gravity as a whole, but especially with the jaw dropping opening shot that will be talked about for some time. You’re thrown into this world of space and see just how vast, empty, and beautiful it is. Cuarón’s longtime cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki captures the essence of space with massive detail that will leave you in awe. The 13-minutes are played out in real time, and it completely immerses you into the film. You don’t feel like you’re watching a film. You feel like you’re in it, floating out there in space alongside the astronauts, in complete silence other than their voices. You literally feel as though you are in space. Not that you’re watching a film with green screen or CGI or anything else. It’s amazing how real they made it all look.
We meet biomedical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and long-time veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who are finishing up a spacewalk, seemingly a routine task. It’s Stone’s first mission, and of course, the last for Kowalski. Stone is nervous and frantic to begin with, while Kowalski is calm, cool, and collected. Yeah, basically, he is George Clooney. The mission should be cake, but after a Russian satellite becomes destroyed, it sends debris throughout their orbit, heading at blistering speeds right towards Stone & Kowalski.
Just as you settle into space and see how quaint and quiet it can be, you’re immediately thrown into a chaotic chain of events that are hard to watch without feeling sick. As these debris disrupt their mission and their safety, it sends Stone into a panic as she is inexperienced and rightfully scared beyond belief. The camerawork will spin you upside down, rotating as if you were out there in space. You will feel tense, dizzy, and frightened. When she’s scared, you’re scared. Different camera angles are used such as POV or from a far that are all done for effect and when done right, it’s almost like your on a ride. It’s filmmaking at its absolute finest.
Sandra Bullock wasn’t the first choice to play Stone, as Angelina Jolie and countless of other actresses were originally sought out before Bullock landed the role. It’s insane to think about after witnessing her performance, something so real and humane, you can’t possibly picture anyone else doing what she did. You instantly connect and feel for her character, in a warm pathos sense that is unbreakable. She will leave you feeling completely emotionally devastated. Clooney makes the most out of every bit of screen time he receives, and although its not all that much. He is charming and funny, doing his best to keep the panicked naive astronaut together. The chemistry between the two is just perfect enough for them to play off each other in every necessary facet. Gravity is the type of film where the action influences the development of the characters. Action drives character, not the other way around. This is always the sign of a good film for me. Kudos to Cuarón for his work on the screenplay, along with his son, Jonás.
On the technical level, Gravity is a once in a lifetime achievement. The camera work and cinematography is something that will be studied and marveled at for many years to come. There are explosions and destruction in the film that will genuinely keep you on the edge of the seat, scared for your own life. That’s how well its all captured. It’s not like I’ve been to space, but the realism of the film is almost too good to be true. They put a lot of work in making this as real as possible, and they accomplished it to the fullest extent. You see giant explosions and giant debris hurling past you, but you don’t hear anything. It’s frightening as hell.
Gravity is meant to be seen on the biggest screen possible, in 3D. I am not a fan of 3D, but Cuarón has done the format justice, using 3D to its fullest extent utilizing the ability of depth. You are thrown into this world and feel completely submerged in all that occurs. The visuals along with Steven Price’s wonderful score will move you beyond believe. He captures every bit of emotion possible, elevating your heart rate when he needs to, and then capturing the quaint silence when its more than necessary.
I can’t tell you the last time I left a movie feeling like this. Without looking it up, I couldn’t even tell you how long the film is (90 minutes). I didn’t care to even think about it because there was not a dull second in this film, or a moment where I wasn’t completely involved with my jaw on the floor. I was constantly concerned about the characters next move. It was a suspenseful thrill ride that was relentlessly intense and gripping in every sense of the word. You never felt that Stone or Kowalski were safe for even a moment. There was not one wasted second, not one poorly executed shot. Everything that Cuarón did was well executed and well plotted out to the betterment of Gravity. It really was, flawless.
Gravity is a cinematic achievement in every sense of the word. I can’t imagine being any other director and looking at what Cuarón has created here and possibly trying to make a movie after witnessing this. It’s an essential movie going experience that should be a required viewing for anyone who appreciates film.
It’s a masterpiece. A film that deserves every ounce of acclaim that it has coming its way.