I’ve been looking forward to Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity for a while now. There were just so many things going for it. It’s a thriller set in one of the most hostile and genuinely terrifying locations ever, the vastness of space. It has George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in the lead roles as astronauts who are cut off from their space shuttle and have to improvise a way back home before their oxygen runs out. It was directed by the guy who gave us Children of Men, a movie with such great uninterrupted/unedited long shots that it blew my tiny nerd mind the first time I saw it. So with all that expectation, it seemed like Gravity had it’s work cut out for it before I even entered the cinema.
Thankfully, Gravity delivered exactly what I was after. The film has already been reviewed by my fellow writer Tom (and I couldn’t have put it better myself so go check it out), but here are a few reasons why you should definitely give this movie a go.
The story really kicks off when debris from a satellite explosion hits the astronaut’s shuttle. And if leaving the surviving crew-members stranded and also untethered from their ship wasn’t enough, thanks to gravity and the rotation of the Earth, they have to pass through the debris field every ninety minutes. There are a lot of great special effects in this film but seeing shuttles/space stations being literally ripped apart by space debris moving at high speeds may be the highlights of this film.
I mentioned the single shots that made ‘Children of Men’ so good didn’t I. Well, they pale in comparison to some of the shots in Gravity. Whether this is long shots of astronauts space-walking over the hull of their ship, surviving a run in with the aforementioned debris, or even watching them as they slowly drift into space. Honestly, I have no idea how they captured some of these shots (or the intricate camera set-ups they’d have had to have used) without actually getting the entire cast into orbit. However they did it, it is all worth it as this is one of the most gorgeously shot films I’ve seen in a while.
Space, the final frontier
Space terrifies me. It’s just too big. The thought of being untethered in Space horrifies me to my core. Watching the Earth slowly get smaller. Seeing your oxygen running out. Knowing that there was nothing you can do to get back. So you can understand that any moments when characters found themselves in this position to be pretty tense. Especially as the camera usually stays at a fixed point and you see the person slowly disappearing into the distance.
George Clooney is perfect in his role as Matt Kowalski . His trademark charm, which I’d feared may be a little much for the film, is actually one of his character’s best qualities. Though he gets to have some fun at the start of the film, when things go wrong he’s exactly the kind of guy you want calling the shots during a disaster. Not only is he unflappable, decisive and most of all, highly competent but all the while he is able to keep up a decent rapport with Ryan to calm her down (and help conserve her air supply) no matter how bleak the situation looks.
On the whole, Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone is the focal point of the film (we even see the film from her POV at times, more on that below). She’s a woman out of her element in a ridiculously perilous situation and I’d have been happy enough to just watch that play out. But that’s not all she brings to the table. Stone is a lost soul. A woman who has suffered a personally tragedy that sometimes makes her wonder if she can, or even wants to, go on. And it’s a pretty great achievement that Bullock conveys this so well that scenes where she is battling her own emotions are just as interesting to watch as her coping with the deteriorating situations around her.
Hooray, now I have another movie (apart from Avatar) to recommend for people to watch in 3D. Honestly, in a lot of movies I usually forget I’m even watching it in 3D until something jumps out of the screen to not so subtly remind me. Here however, it works well as everything from exploding shuttles, astronauts, tools, and in one particularly poignant scene, even tears all help add to the feeling of weightlessness. If you get the chance to see it in 3D, I’d highly recommend parting with the extra few quid.
First person space-walking
Every so often, and even sometimes during the long sequences, we’re given a first person perspective of what Stone can see through her helmet. This (along with the 3D) gives an immediacy to the action whenever we see her hands grasping for something to hold onto as she tries to find an anchor to control her movements, and perfectly conveys the claustrophobia of being stuck in a tiny suit, with a rapidly depleting air supply, as she spins through the vastness of space.
This movie is all about escalation. Every time something seems to be going our heroes way, there’s another problem to deal with. One of these is a fire that takes place in zero-g around Stone. The effects are amazing, the flames seem alive as they float through the station and as Stone realises just a little too late, it’s not that easy to put out a fire in space when your extinguisher will shot you off in the opposite direction you’re pointing it.
Hmm, this is slightly weird one considering the location of the film… where sound doesn’t travel. But this movie does have great sound. Not only is the musical score great for helping to build up the tension during exhilarating set pieces but the sounds effects are great as well. Whether this is the complete silence of space. The tiny and often garbled voices of the people communicating to the pair over radios. The muted sounds of things being torn apart around the astronauts or even just the rapid breathing of astronauts (which has the added downside of using up their oxygen too quickly). Sound is one of those things that can have so much impact on your enjoyment of a film, and in Gravity, it definitely works just perfectly.
All right. This might be a slightly cheesy one but sometimes it’s easy to forget just how beautiful our wee planet is. There are many shots of Earth during the movie and whilst most of these times are eclipsed by the action on screen, when we see Earth in all her glory, it really is pretty breathtaking.
Honorary mention: Puntastic.
I love puns (and I truly believe anyone who doesn’t is either a liar or dead inside), so being able to add the ‘weight’ gag in the title really made me chuckle at my own genius (see also: Stupidity or immaturity).
Any other reasons you would recommend Gravity? Think the movie was over-rated? Let us know in the comments section?