Gravity sets Sandra adrift in space
THERE’S a scene that comes early in Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron’s stunning tale of survival, that will absolutely take your breath away.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a nervous medical engineer making her first space-shuttle flight, and her far more experienced co-pilot Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), are assaulted by a storm of space debris, the detritus of a destroyed Russian satellite, that leaves them marooned and facing their own mortality.
It’s an amazing sequence that shows a cunning use of technology and makes the case that Gravity is one of the few films that demands to be seen in 3D.
Yet Gravity also has an emotional and spiritual depth that, like 127 Hours, another film about man vs. isolation, transcends what might at first seem a gimmicky plot device. The film evokes the grandeur of the cosmos from the opening shots of Stone and Kowalski outside their craft, set against the vast backdrop of the universe and a beautiful blue Earth. She’s making repairs while he is bouncing around like a first-grader at recess.
But things take a turn for the serious when that debris field slams into them, ultimately leaving Stone alone to perhaps drift to her demise. That’s when Gravity becomes tense and suspenseful.
While Bullock became a household name by starring in more lightweight material, she holds her own here as someone coming to grips with her fate. She’s also extremely relatable; it’s easy to identify with her as the newcomer who finds herself in way over her head.
Of course, Gravity isn’t the first movie to plumb the horror of dying slowly alone. The likes of Open Water, Frozen and Buried have toyed with the idea of characters having only panic and prayers for company to varying effect, but few pack the punch of this film.
Directed by Mexican director Cuaron ( Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Y Tu Mam Tambin, Children of Men) and co-written with his son, Jonas, Gravity evokes a sense of spirituality without being too heavy-handed or obvious. With help from cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki ( The Tree of Life), it’s also a technical marvel, utilising $80 million worth
Gravity opens today. of the latest cinematic technologies to propel the story forward, not merely to dazzle and distract. That they do it within the confines of a concise, tightly written 90-minute story arc makes it all the more remarkable.
Like last year’s Life of Pi, another beautifully rendered tale about facing the elements alone, there will be debates as the credits roll about how the Cuarons resolve their story. Some will be dissatisfied; others will think it’s pitch-perfect and of a piece with everything that’s come before. But there should be no argument about the achievement that the Cuarons – and Bullock – have created. Sandra Bullock in a scene from lost-in-space movie Gravity.
– CARY DARLING