Gravity is a remarkable achievement for a couple of reasons. Firstly that a director whose last feature film, seven years ago, while critically admired but somewhat commercially underwhelming, managed to get a film set almost entirely in space, and with almost everything created through special effects and a cast of just three, financed and made. But mainly, and most importantly, the films is an incredible technical achievement, the most realistic, absorbing, and ultimately chilling recreation of being in the wonderful but deadly vacuum of space. Sandra Bullock and George Clooneyplay the rookie and veteran Astronauts who are forced to fight for survival when their ship is destroyed by debris.
I have never been fully convinced of the worth of 3D, but Gravity should be held up as the medium’s touchstone. The extra dimension is critical in creating a dizzying and eye-opening sense of perspective in this environment, to give a real appreciation of the magnitude of the location. The SFX are perfect, giving a real believability to every piece of equipment, every piece of action. Alfonso Cuarón’s use of the camera in an environment that offers every possible axis is endlessly inventive, from the magnificent long single take that slowly zooms in to reveal a space ship, to putting us inside the helmet of a drifting Astronaut, instilling in us both the sense of wonder and of claustrophobia. The absence of sound in space is reflected throughout, and its dearth, with just Stephen Price’s great score on top, somehow makes the action scenes feel more dangerous, thrilling and deadly. Cuarón isn’t afraid to make initially bold decisions in terms of pacing or character, and he maximises the scant running time.
However, what stops Gravity from the title of truly great is in fact the story and characters. The dialogue is often clunky, and Clooney is just doing his ‘George Clooney thing’ in a space suit, nothing deeper. And while Bullock tries her best, she is saddled with a back story that feels too trite and she can’t really deliver the emotional impact required in the key scenes. I just didn’t care enough about the characters, wasn’t emotionally invested in them, and this is critical in a film with such a premise and limited cast. Perhaps Cuarón could have gone even further and emphasised the silence of space by reducing the dialogue to a minimum. After all, the surroundings are the real draw here.
Gravity is incredible to look at, to be overwhelmed by, so beautiful in its imagery and scope that its faults can, almost, be totally forgiven. Seek it out on the largest screen you can find.
Gravity is now playing in cinemas nationwide.
Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock
Released by: Warner Bros.