Gravity is a visual phenomenon. You will not see a more beautiful film this year. It is gorgeous from start to finish and uses 3D to greater effect than any movie I’ve ever seen. If there is one film that works as a testament to the power of shot composition, it’s Gravity. It would be recommended viewing even if it didn’t happen to be a white-knuckle thrill ride — like a climax stretched across the course of an entire film.
The first few minutes of Gravity are innocuous. We see two astronauts performing what seems like a routine spacewalk. One is a veteran, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who is cool and calm for the entire film. The other, a rookie, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), escaping her tragic back-story on Earth by heading to space. Ten minutes in, they receive a message from Mission Control. “Abort,” they are told. Debris from a Russian satellite is heading their way. They don’t get out of the way in time. It destroys their ship, killing everyone else and leaving them stranded, unable to communicate with anyone except each other. This all occurs before we’ve had a single cut. The first 20 minutes or so is a single take.
From here, the characters have to fight to survive, floating from broken ship to broken ship, hoping to find one functional enough to go home. And by characters, I really just mean Ryan Stone, because Matt disappears for a large portion of the film. Sandra Bullock owns the movie. She plays the protagonist and her co-star is the vast abyss that is space. And she pulls it off. If she deserved an Oscar for her role in The Blind Side, she deserves two for Gravity. This is a far tougher role, as she has to carry the film alone. She goes through a wide variety of emotions and has to do it all while primarily acting against nothing but bits of technology or space. The role is also physically demanding, as director Alfonso Cuarón loves Murphy’s Law. Everything that can go wrong does and it does so rapidly.
In fact, that’s really Gravity‘s only issue. It has to come up with new ways every couple of minutes to try to kill Ryan Stone and it gets a little silly. By the time a clichéd sequence involving a fuel gauge was over, I was no longer being thrilled. Instead, I was laughing. I had to instead appreciate the film’s visuals, applaud its realistic depiction of people floating in space and enjoy the human drama. This sets the new standard for space movies; every film from this point on will be compared to Gravity However, the constant stream of potential death? I was over it.
But that doesn’t make Gravity anywhere close to a bad movie. It is still gorgeous — you won’t be able to figure out how they pulled off some of these shots — and a great lead performance by Sandra Bullock. Absolutely give Gravity a watch and preferably at the cinema in 3D.