So, on Wednesday, I went through the nail-biting experience that is watching Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
It’s very difficult to talk about the film’s plot without giving away key surprises and twists, but suffice to say: Sandra Bullock is a research scientist up in space for the first time working on a particular project for NASA (her status as novice astronaut is important) and George Clooney is her well-practiced superior and flight commander, who’s far more at ease with his life as a space explorer. All does not go smoothly on their trip and Cuarón uses the setting of space to brilliant effect as they are thrown into greater and greater peril.
Firstly, Gravity is utterly beautiful. The special effects are elegantly done and it did seem hard to believe they weren’t actually filming in outer space at times. Our narrative focus and audience connection is Dr Ryan Stone, Bullock’s character. As the new girl in space, her discomfort and panic when things go wrong, aligns perfectly with the audience’s perspective. She reacts as we might. Cuarón moves deftly from outside her helmet looking at directly at Bullock, to ‘inside’ the helmet, as if looking through her eyes. This helps to build an immersive, physical cinematic experience, that is – in this case – delicately enhanced by the use of 3D. I’m not usually a fan, but here, as in Life of Pi, the 3D effects are used to draw you in and take you on more of a journey with these characters, rather than just as a gimmick. The camera twists and turns, often leaving the viewer as disorientated as the astronauts. All of which adds to the tension in the atmosphere. It clocks in at a well-paced 90 minutes, meaning that the action rarely lets up throughout the film.
Gravity is totally dominated and owned by Bullock. I’ve always enjoyed her work, but her performance here is extraordinary. She has to carry most of the action by herself and she is compulsively watchable throughout. There isn’t a huge amount of dialogue and Bullock uses every trick in her actor’s arsenal to communicate Dr Stone’s state of mind. I struggled to think of another actor who could have done as good a job.
I thoroughly enjoyed Gravity. It was tense, well-directed, well-acted, fast-paced and managed to keep a fairly ambigous tone. Others may disagree with me, but I genuinely wasn’t sure what sort of direction several key plot points would take and I felt that this only added to the film’s good qualities. It has also confirmed that, unlikely though it is, should I ever get the chance to head into space – I will be running madly in the opposite direction. Where Space Camp made thinking on your feet in space seem fun, totally do-able and a place to make lifelong friends, Gravity reminded me that it would be absolutely terrifying. But, while I may not be advocating space travel anytime soon, the film comes heartily recommended.