Prior to its release, ‘Gravity’ was one of my most anticipated films of its year. Groundbreaking visual effects, novel filmmaking techniques and an intense, claustrophobic story; the film looked like a real treat.
The story sees Sandra Bullock’s Ryan Stone and George Clooney’s Matt Kowalski working on a space station before disaster strikes and sees them fight against the odds to survive in the most unsurvivable environment one could ever find oneself in.
The good news is that this is a hugely enjoyable piece of cinema that starts at a break-neck pace and never lets up. Running at ninety one minutes – a running time that will always lure me in – this is a simple story of survival and redemption. The visual effects are truly spectacular, which seems like damning with faint praise, but many blockbusters offer equally grandiose visuals only for that dreaded cartoonish style to spoil proceedings. The visual effects in ‘Gravity’ really are groundbreaking and all praise the film receives in this regard is merited.
On a technical level, few films have managed to really take the audience into outer-space like this. Kubrick and Scott would be proud of the icy cold, oppressive atmosphere created by the pristine visuals and expert cinematography. The sound design is also immaculately constructed; the silence of space meeting the gripping score prop-up the beautiful visuals to create one of the most immersive cinematic experiences I have had in a long time.
The performances are solid from both Bullock and Clooney and it is refreshing to see a woman helm a film which would traditionally be made with a male lead. Bullock is always a watchable screen presence, going back as far as her turn in the underrated ‘Speed’; she is such a likable figure, it’s difficult not to root for her. As well as the expert casting, kudos should also be given to Alfonso Cuarón for creating such a resplendent symphony of sound and image.
Of all Cuarón’s work that I’ve seen, I still feel that ‘Children Of Men’ is his most accomplished piece; the technical aspects of that film are supported by a story complete with substance and intrigue. The same cannot be said for ‘Gravity’. Despite the accomplishments of its technical brilliance, the film lacks an emotional punch with I was so hoping to feel. I saw the film not long after watching ‘Captain Phillips’, which left me an emotional wreck; after ‘Gravity’, I was left feeling a little dissatisfied. My eyes had gorged on the grandiose visual feast but my brain and heart needed more of a thematic feast.
There are moments which touch on profound thematic exploration; the film is a story of rebirth. Towards the climax, Bullock’s character floats in an enclosed space in a manner which strongly resonates with the image of a baby in the womb. But Cuarón seems to have abandoned the thematic exploration in favour of mastering the technical aspects of the film. Like an itch you can’t quite reach, I felt slightly deflated when I left the cinema and found myself craving more from the film’s attempts to evoke an emotional response.
It was one of the main contenders at the Oscars in 2014, but if winning an Academy Award is the ultimate recognition of a films quality (it’s not, by the way) then I am not entirely sure ‘Gravity’ is deserving to be in the same company as ’12 Years A Slave’. Nonetheless, the film is an entertaining, breathless piece of cinematic splendour; it’s just a shame about the lack of an emotional core.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney