Those who suffer from hypertension, panic attacks or various other anxiety disorders may want to think twice about seeing Gravity. It’s a
relentlessly suspenseful and terrifying film that immerses us in the brutality and potential horror of space travel. It’s also an astonishing
cinematic experience that juxtaposes awe-inspiring beauty with pure terror.
In telling the story of a team of astronauts that become stranded above Earth after a debris field decimates their craft, Gravity does
everything right. This is an incredible achievement in filmmaking both technically and artistically; combining thrilling action, stunning
visuals and surprising emotion.
Director Alfonso Cuarón has wowed me before with his incredible visual style in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of
Men, but Gravity is his best work yet. This is a masterpiece of direction that combines the beauty of Azkaban with the intricate unbroken
shots of Children of Men. Calling it a visual triumph doesn’t even do it justice.
The opening shot of the film lasts well over ten minutes. The camera lingers on the atmosphere of Earth while a space shuttle slowly comes
into view. We fluidly move from character to character, as if floating through space alongside them. We are totally immersed.
This is a film well worth seeing in 3D. Suspended drops of liquid spot the camera lens at one point and debris flying at bullet-speed had me
There are countless moments of visual majesty and invention. There’s a striking shot of Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone that recreates a
womb after nearly suffocating. And those exceptional extended shots that seamlessly transition into first-person view and back again are
Cuarón goes against the commonly-held belief that hyper editing and extreme close-ups are necessary for excitement and tension. His
fluid, long takes draw us in and create a palpable sense of immersion. They are a perfect fit for the cold void of space. The pressure builds
as these shots unfold. Without the normal cuts, our eyes remain glued to the screen.
The film is so eerie and stressful that even after my second viewing I had neck pains from being in a constant state of tension.
The film’s calm, soothing opening lulls us into a false sense of security before unleashing the horrors of space that are often ignored in
entertainment. As its opening text states, “Life in space is impossible” and Gravity shows that pretty effectively.
Dr. Stone is subjected to just about everything that can go wrong and all of these sequences are superbly directed. A debris field shreds
everything in its path, suits run out of oxygen, space stations burst into flames, life boats run out of fuel and freeze and perhaps most
terrifying of all is just trying to hold on from floating away into the black of space and the darkness of our own minds.
Cuarón also co-wrote and co-edited the film, and both work together to create a perfectly paced film that never lets up for its lean 90-
minute running time.
Even when we are given a brief respite from the chaos, Gravity still manages to keep emotions high with its satisfying dose of character
I’ll admit I’ve never been the biggest fan of either Bullock or George Clooney, but both of their performances are exceptional. Clooney
trades in his trademark smugness for genuine charm and humor as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski.
Bullock steals the show as the detached Dr. Stone. There are several poignant moments where Stone reveals her tragic past and comes to
terms with her own mortality and spirituality that elevate Gravity above even the best thrillers. The fear and vulnerability in Bullock’s
performance is exceptionally realized. It’s even more impressive when considering the largely computer-generated nature of the film and
that many of these scenes are played solo by Bullock. This is an outstanding raw performance that could very well receive recognition
come awards season. And I wouldn’t be surprised if the film is recognized in an abundance of categories.
Outside of the obvious marvels of the film’s visuals, the sound design is also exceptional. Gravity even dares to play with the rules by
realistically panning dialog across the various channels and accurately portraying the silence of space’s vacuum.
Steven Price’s score provides an intriguing melding of sound design and sentimentality; substituting for the lack of sound effects while
also providing the necessary emotions (especially in the film’s thrilling climax).
Gravity is masterful in every respect. It’s a near perfect blend of survivalist suspense and psychological character drama. The
performances are excellent and the cinematography and visual effects are superlative.
This film is stunningly good and Cuarón’s direction truly formidable. Don’t be surprised to see Gravity start appearing on lists of the best
science fiction films ever made- it’s that significant and ground-breaking. Don’t wait to see it at home; Gravity must be experienced at the
theater. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen and sets a new standard for sci-fi thrills while providing an unexpected jolt of powerful
* * * *
(Out of four)
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Music by: Steven Price
Cinematography by: Emmanuel Lubezki
Released: October 4, 2013; 90 Minutes