By Henry Readhead (London, United Kingdom)
gravity-1

 

From Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men) comes this captivating story set in space.

Audiences shouldn’t be put off by the story’s setting: this is not science-fiction, but a thriller in which the unforgivable conditions of the surroundings make for a viewing that is both uncomfortable and gripping.

George Clooney (Ocean’s Eleven, The Descendants) and Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side, Crash) star as veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski and rookie medical engineer Ryan Stone, who are servicing the Hubble Space Telescope at the story’s inception.

That’s about as calm as the story gets. A Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite scatters debris through space, hitting Kowalski and Stone’s shuttle, and sending the latter spinning through space.

The performances of Clooney and Bullock are very good. There is nothing novel about the old lag/young rookie pairing and yet wise-cracking Kowalski and the vulnerable-yet-resilient Stone have strong on-screen chemistry without slipping into buddy movie-style banter. Bullock in particular reminds us of her genuine acting ability after taking time out of serious roles to appear in Paul Feig’s comedy The Heat with her portrayal of Dr Stone, who shows determination and improvisation in extreme isolation and the prospect of near-certain death.

The film looks amazing, seamlessly blending live-action performance with digital technology against the silent, picturesque Earth that hangs in the background, its warm face contrasting starkly with the cold emptiness of space.

And for those who, like me, have been less than convinced by 3D film in the past, prepare to be pleasantly surprised. Many a filmmaker has been guilty of using 3D technology to put people in seats and squeeze more money out of the viewer; in Gravity, not only does the 3D work with Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography, it adds to it, to the extent that the 2D version of the film lacks something in comparison. In 3D, the vistas alone are breathtaking and some of the action sequences will leave your head spinning. Visually, Gravity in 2D seems more dull and you as a viewer feel more detached from what’s happening on screen. It’s a film that requires you to be overwhelmed by the scenery, and the outcome of not being immersed is that the film is just not as enjoyable.

Gravity draws upon themes of isolation and loneliness, spiritual and psychological change and motifs of polarity: the earth with space, silence with the score and long shots with enclosed ones inside space suits and shuttles. Its attempts to tackle philosophical subject matter are admirable, although it doesn’t quite make up for the absence of real plot depth; Gravity is a head-spinning rollercoaster of a film where the narrative gives way to style and pace but those who don’t board may leave the cinema feeling unsatisfied.

Gravity is a film that is thrilling, disorientating and at times, visually arresting. It rarely lets up for most of its 90-minute running time. Allow yourself to be immersed in it and it’s a film that will not disappoint.

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