When describing Gravity to friends, I venture to liken it to the vacuum of outer space. Alfonso Cuarón’s (director, Children of Men) science fiction masterpiece eliminates all trace’s of oxygen from theaters in its 90-minute runtime. In affect, Gravity will leave you breathless; it is the year’s most original and outstanding work of art, and it is not to be missed.
American astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski are stranded after a destroyed Russian satellite hurls debris through space, destroying anything and everything in its wake, including communications with Houston (voiced by Ed Harris), and the Hubble telescope and Explorer spacecraft. The catastrophic incident immediately seizes audiences, but it’s certainly a terrifying experience for rookie astronaut Stone (Sandra Bullock, The Heat) who is tethered to the obliterated telescope. She is helplessly thrust into space; running out of oxygen as she spirals away from the wreckage and crew. It is unclear to me how Emmanuel Lubezki (director of photography, The Tree of Life) pulls it off, but the cinematography is nothing short of ground-breaking. In keeping his camera constantly circulating through the environment, he has created a vast environ of space with absolute perfection, and one that extends beyond the screen as well. For those movie-goers finding themselves lost in the film, it is a frighteningly real and uninhabitable space.
Mission Commander Kowalski (George Clooney The Descendants) rescues Stone with his space-walking suit, and together they seek refuge and escape aboard the International Space Station. “It’s a bit of a hike” (to the space station), the seasoned astronaut explains. The venerable veteran has a knack for telling stories and coaxing his rookie to open up about her past. Stone, having lost her only child at a very young age, is a grieving parent. She has nothing to live for anymore, except maybe her career. It is this proposition Gravity explores in the subsequent narrative. The odds are firmly stacked against the protagonist as her oxygen depletes, fuel becomes scarce, and the elements threaten survival at every turn. So, why does Stone fight the hopeless nature of her plight? While Stone searches for that will to survive, Cuarón relentlessly executes the next chain reaction hurdle for the heroine to overcome, amounting to a delightful visceral treat for the rest of us. And oh, is it satisfying.
Sandra Bullock personifies perfection in her headlining duties. Her range of emotions are felt at every turn, garnering the deserved response from the audience. We cheer for Ryan Stone. We encourage her to overcome her loss, we expect her to fight for survival, and we desire her to touch Earthly soil once more. Clooney, as well, delivers splendidly by overcoming awkward spiels about failed personal history to propose an admirable contention to survive. The man relies on his trademark delivery, but who can resist those beautiful blue eyes? (hint: they’re not blue)
Gravity is my surprise sleeper of the year, a movie I never expected to connect with, but it pleasantly and absolutely blind-sided me. It invokes jaw-dropping wonder at its beauty and at the same time wears out the edges of theater seating. I don’t expect everyone to enjoy the same experience as I did, but at the very least, you can go home having felt your money was well spent.