Thursday, 14 November 2013


In space no one can hear you scream... or talk... or do much of anything which is why communication technology is a really important thing when working in space. But what happens when things do not go right and neither screaming, nor talking, nor much of anything can help? This is Gravity.

Up above the atmosphere, Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), and the team of the Explorer shuttle are working on some repairs and updates on the Hubble Telescope. They tell stories and fun jokes whilst Stone works hard with the space technology and Kowalski floats around on his jet-pack, enjoying his last mission before returning to Earth. Suddenly, Houston aborts the mission as a satellite that the Russians have blown up has become debris rocketing through space at lethal speeds and the shuttle is right in the middle of its path. Stone is not fast enough and gets separated from the ship, spinning away into the abyss of space. Breathing heavily, fearfully flying, she tries to orientate herself so that Kowalski can catch up to her. What follows is ninety minutes of two astronauts going against every challenge (low oxygen, low fuel, flying killer debris etc) to preserve their own lives.

What's got ya down, Stone?

There may be no sound in space, but there is the opportunity to put in a fantastic with little more than your face and voice and both Clooney and Bullock do just that. There was no use of zero gravity in the production of the film, all the weightlessness is simulated with extremely clever choreographed sequences memorised by the actors. These were sometimes extremely long sequences too, the first scene alone is ten minutes or so without a cut. Bullock should be particularly praised. It is her that the audience build a connection with through the story telling and cinematography of the film, and it is her that is thrown into space alone. She is completely moving as the innocent, newcomer to the world of space, her only crime being over-enthusiasm for her work.  Several times she resigns herself to the fate of the universe before being inspired by Kowalski, or a Chinese lullaby, or whatever. We see the process of a human brain contemplating life's worth with the back drop of a sci-fi thriller through Bullock's performance - often with the smallest visual of her face or just her voice. Clooney gets to do what Clooney does best. A smart, charismatic man, who truly emulates kind arrogance as the mission commander and always puts the safety of Stone before himself. Delightful.


Fantastic performance aside, no film such as this would be a success without a stunning technical side. Throughout film history, the most critically acclaimed science fiction films have been just as technically astounding as they have been well performed. Look at 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, or even Avatar. Like 2001 and Moon, Gravity puts emphasis on the size of the universe and how small and alone a person can be compared to something that incomprehensibly huge. But unlike those films, Gravity rockets through with adrenaline and suspense at a speed to rival a Die Hard film. Constantly on the edge of your seat as one thing goes wrong after another, continuously putting the innocent astronauts in life threatening situations through no fault of their own. But it is not just the writing that makes this film, it is the way in which we, the viewer, get to experience it. We get put inside the helmet of Dr Stone on multiple occasions and see the disaster as she sees it. We spin with her and are made dizzy and delusional. We are essentially placed in the situation with her through a roller coaster like journey with the camera, enhanced brilliantly by Steven Prices score and the choice of soundtrack. This is a true success by Alfonso Cuarón and will go down in the books as an essential sci-fi.

An emotional, heart pumping, and suspenseful piece of cinema. What else do you expect from the director of Children of Men and the best film in the Harry Potter franchise (Prisoner of Azkaban)? Clooney and Bullock are phenomenal, and the film is a brilliant creation with 3D so perfectly utilised to create the depth of space and the minuscule nature of humans. A must see and one of the films of the year.

Best Bit? There are a lot of cracking moments but a moment that stood out was just after Stone had survived yet another life threatening challenge, she curled up into the foetal position whilst floating in an airlock with the sunlight shining brightly through the window behind her. Why did it stand out? It was the moment that said, this film is more than a sci-fi thriller, this is a story that contemplates life. This is the rebirth of someone who just escaped death. Complex stuff below surface level.

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