More than anything, Gravity is a huge leap in the ongoing technological advancements in cinema – it is films like this that add to the argument for moving into the digital and away from traditional forms of filmmaking. What is even better is that director, Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) has created a story, which is compelling, adventurous and at it’s core emotional. Topping this off is the performances by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney; both of whom shine on screen in their own ways, grabbing the audience’s attention from moment one until the final end credits. Altogether, Gravity is a massive success of a film – it adds to the already huge history of films set in space and yet it sets the bar high for anymore to come in the future.
Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a quiet and contemplative medical engineer who has been propelled into space with a group of seasoned astronauts to help out with a repair mission on the Hubble Telescope. Alongside Stone is Clooney’s sarcastic and relaxed Matt Kowalski, who is due to retire from the space game after this final, straight forward mission. What no one expects is disaster to strike, which of course it does. As shrapnel comes flying from all directions, their shuttle is destroyed, along with the others on the mission. What is left is Stone, Kowalski and the huge expanse of emptiness and blackness around them. When Kowalski finally manages to tether himself to the panic stricken Stone, who can’t control her movement , it leaves them spiralling into the nothingness and a lot of time to think. With Ryan’s oxygen tank running scarily low, the pair have to decide on a plan of action to save themselves and get back home.
Alongside the rest of the crew, Cuaron has created the most beautiful and sensual representation of space to have been seen in ages. This may have something to do with the ingenious use of 3D – the audience can actually feel and sense the vast expanse out in front of them. Much of the film is seen through the eyes of his characters, feeling the same sense of danger and intrigue as the characters themselves. Gravity takes complete advantage of the senses; visually stunning and entrancing but also playing with sound. The orchestral score is beautiful as it moves from just being heard, to actually filling the screen and space itself. The opposition between the deafening emptiness and the sweeping, full body of the music adds another level to the film; metaphorically and literally. Sounds themselves are also given a special treatment; in the opening moments, the films tells you that one can hear nothing in space and so when Cuaron treats the audience to natural noises of the body or things moving, they mean something and reverberate throughout. Everything in the film is there for a reason and means something in particular.
One of the most interesting plots in the film is the dependance on the female lead; not since Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley have we had such a multilayered and scintillating female in science fiction. But the comparisons do not end there, it is quite clear that Ripley was in mind when creating Ryan; the sound, the speech and the look all call for the audience to remember the power of Alien. Really without the world of Alien or 2001: A Space Odyssey, a film like Gravity probably couldn’t exist. This is one of Bullock’s most challenging roles to date; as she has grown older though, we have become accustomed to her trying things outside of her comfort zone and with Gravity, she really pulls through. We learn early on that Ryan has no one else but as the film goes on, we see her go through the horrors of talking about her young daughter that passed away. It is at the height of the action when Ryan is about to give up and allow life to slip away from her, that the audience really start to understand what Gravity is actually about. She gains the strength she needs to go on and learns to appreciate life to the full; she lives on so that the memory of her daughter will also live on. It takes, for Ryan, this vast space with no one else around, above the planet for her to realise what it actually means to live, really live.
Clooney has a smaller supporting role in the film and ultimately is playing himself; he is a cheeky wise guy, who spends most of his time in the film making jokes and trying to lighten up the situation. But really, he is the key to allowing Ryan to rediscover her reason to live and for that reason, he remains almost as important as her.
Gravity is a special sort of film; it is one of those where the casual viewer could walk away having seen the tropes of science fiction, for Bullock and Clooney this is a new feat of acting and for those who are interested in delving a little deeper, they will see that the film is more about discovering yourself and giving you a reason to live rather than just a film set in space. It makes you think and it does so in the most imaginative of ways.