If you’ve ever wanted to experience the feeling of being in outer space, than “Gravity” may be the closest you’ll ever get to it. Marking a huge come-back for director Alfonso Cauron after a pondering 6-year absence, the movie makes you literally feel as if you’re suspended in space. Technically, it’s dazzlingly well-made and justifiably ground-breaking in terms of it’s visual splendor, but what’s most astonishing is how it’s also something more. Going into the film, the pulse-pounding trailers seem to have deceived me into expecting a pure visual gimmick. Rewardingly, though, that’s not entirely what this suspense-vehicle offers. Although it’s astounding technical achievements stand atop a higher pedestal than the storytelling, “Gravity” spiritually demands us to contemplate the meaning of being alive.
Watching the film gave me the joyous sensation of experiencing a timeless motion picture like James Cameron’s “Titanic”. While the film’s thrilling entertainment-value came as no surprise for me, what did was the deep meaning beneath it’s themes. “Gravity” is about survival, the will to never give up hope and find redemption in the most troublesome of circumstances. But as you may have thought to yourself, as I did, while watching it’s trailers: isn’t the story extremely simple-minded? It surely begins with a basic plot following the lives of two humans in space. Played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, the former is a medical engineer whereas the latter is an experienced astronaut. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first shuttle mission in space, aided by the guidance of a highly skilled mentor (George Clooney). For a mere newbie to the environment of space, Ryan surprisingly seems confident and determined. That is until disaster crosses her path, plunging a complete outsider to the world of space into a fight for survival.
Here’s one of the most challenging roles I’ve come across in a long time. Physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, not only does it require unprecedented work from an actor, it also puts daunting pressure on them. It’s through Ryan, in prolonged sequences the only character in the film, that we feel an emotional connection and empathy. Sandra Bullock wouldn’t have been my first choice to pull off such a tough role, yet with unparalleled courage, she more than rises up to the challenge. In a career-defining performance that’s going to be remembered for countless years to come, Bullock magically cements herself as a great actress. Completely diminishing the ‘romantic-comedy’ appeal that she catered towards in her prime career, it’s the performer unlike you’ve ever seen her before. The moment where I truly believe that this actress deserves recognition has finally arrived.
In a shorter, yet similarly memorable role is George Clooney, another Hollywood A-lister who doesn’t disappoint. As joyously charming and likable as he’s always been, the performer surprisingly holds his own against Bullock’s glowing presence.
But “Gravity’s” biggest revelation, as I may have already hinted at previously, aren’t the people in front of the camera but rather those behind it. By this I’m talking about director Alfonso Cauron, who despite a long-time absence from Cinema, proves to be a powerful force to be reckoned with. Seamlessly weaving together breathless action sequences, the most visually stunning cinematography I may have ever seen, as well the emotional center of the movie, Cauron is an artist at the top of his game. What makes his approach so impressive, when compared to modern-day filmmakers of this age, is how it’s anchored by a wondrous passion that’s hardly ever seen in an industry like Hollywood. A soaring example of this is the film’s beautiful cinematography, featuring camerawork that’s surprisingly wide-ranged. The most exhilarating shots are perspective angles, where we get to see the world from an astronaut’s perspective and experience the white-knuckle claustrophobia of their situations.
Yet, for all it’s visual splendor, “Gravity” isn’t quite the masterful film that many have been deeming it. What makes the thriller fall inches from being a masterpiece is Alfonso Cauron’s lack of attention towards story development. While the special effects and visuals are splendid, the director nearly forgets that storytelling is just as important, if not more. Admittedly, the lead character isn’t very developed and lacks persona. Although there’s bits and pieces of a background story for her, consisting of a deep emotional core, her story arc seems incomplete. Would extending the extremely short, 90 minute running time solve such problems?
Maybe, but here’s where you draw the line between bloated fare and a reasonably paced offering. Despite the lack of character development, “Gravity” is in several ways the latter- a magnificently paced ride that never loses steam or dries out it’s thrills. One of the most tricky challenges that tend to show up when handling such films is the ability to always maintain a firm grasp on the audience’s attention. In an environment that’s as empty as space, that’s far from an easy feat to pull off. In ways both enchanting and miraculous, however, the movie does.
Featuring a strikingly powerful and melodic soundtrack by Steven Price, “Gravity” is that magical film that you always expect from Hollywood but never get. Created with startling ambitions and a searing imagination that demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible, it’s a movie made for those who love movies. Particularly, the kind of film-goers that rush to the theater in sheer excitement of being surprised and after experiencing a mostly disappointing Summer movie season, I’m definitely one of them.