"Clear skies with a chance of satellite debris..."
Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock)
There are no two ways about it… Gravity is the finest film Hollywood has produced this year, perhaps even in the past decade. Veteran Sci-Fi legends such as director James Cameron have stated that Gravity is the finest space movie ever made - a quote that has made movie marketing teams go gaga on the posters. And they are not wrong. It is a real breath of fresh air when a big movie lives up to its hype and then some. Gravity has everything you could want from a big studio blockbuster - action, despair, hope, fear. But key to its success is it is not just another movie… It is an experience. And an experience that only the magic of the cinema can offer.
From the very first frame to the last, Gravity is cinematic spectacle at its most beautiful and powerful. Director Alfonso Cuarón uses long, languid shots as we see our protagonists working on the Hubble telescope - perfectly capturing the eerie calm and tranquility of outer space. The camera glides effortlessly from expansive global vista to intimate point of view from inside the character's spacesuit. In fact the camera doesn't cut until the catastrophic disaster has struck - an explosive spectacle in ominous silence (bar the screaming panic of the characters and the fantastic score by Steven Price). Cuarón has form in this arena - his one-shot action set piece within the confines of a car in Children Of Men springs to mind. But here, he marries the smooth glides of the camera with the apoplectic space disaster to maximum effect. The flawless visual effects place you right at the heart of the action and you will find yourself gripping your armrests throughout the 90-minute running time. Not only this, but here is a film maker who actually uses the 3D format as a proper narrative tool. Only fellow maestros Any Lee and Martin Scorsese, in my humble opinion, have come close to using 3D to enhance the story so well. It is difficult to write this, as I am an anti-3D campaigner - but Gravity fuels me with quiet hope that other film makers will actually sit up and take note of how to properly use the technique and not just have blurry things jut out of the screen for supposed effect.
Gravity has all the visual hoopla that one expects to draw the audiences in to see it, but Cuarón and his co-writer Jonás (his son) know that key to keeping the audiences in their seats is character. And together, by keeping the narrative focus on character as opposed to visual effects, they ensure that audiences feel every threat, every danger and every emotion with their leads. The casting is perfect. Clooney is charming, charismatic and wholly convincing as the old space-dog Kowalski - he stays calm under pressure and helps his fellow survivor (and his audience) to focus and stay positive in what looks to be certain annihilation in the upper atmosphere. But this is Sandra Bullock's movie - her terrified medical engineer Ryan Stone is our emotional focus… We feel her fear, we feel her despair. And Bullock has never been better - all bets are off on Best Actress at the Oscars this year. A grieving mother escaping to space to escape her pain on Earth, her grit and determination in the face of death offer a metaphorical re-birth - turning despair and sorrow into hope. Bullock takes dialogue that in lesser hands would reek of cheese and turns it into heartfelt emotion. There are also some lovely little nods to previous space odysseys - with Ed "Apollo 13" Harris as the voice of Houston Mission Control as one of the best.
Perhaps Gravity will lose some of its spectacle when released for home on Blu-Ray and download - how could it not? Despite the advances of modern technology for home cinema systems, it is nigh-on impossible to fully re-create the vast epic scale that only the big screen can offer. And yet the film will succeed - because the film makers remind you that at the very heart of the movie is a very human story… A story of survival, of standing tall against the odds and the chance to be re-born. And what more can you ask for when you go to the movies?
Epic in scale, heartfelt in emotion… Gravity puts nearly all other blockbuster Hollywood movies to shame. Alfonso Cuarón shows others exactly what can be achieved when good old fashioned story telling is married perfectly to cutting-edge film making technology. And with career-best performances from Clooney and especially Bullock, this is one movie you cannot afford to miss. Start taking bets now - Gravity is going to sweep the boards when awards season arrives!