Caution: Some mild spoilers may appear. Read at your own risk.
Award-winning director Alfonso Cuarón, having previously directed diverse films such as the Prisoner of Azakaban and Children of Men, has now turned his attention towards the heavens in his latest film, a sci-fi survival film called Gravity.
An ambitious project, Gravity features stunning, surreally beautiful visuals which capture the enormity of space and the wonder of human spaceflight as well as the potential for horrific disaster. Cuarón, whose previous long continuous takes and documentary-style filming of Children of Men were truly ambitious now turns his attention to the uses of 3D filming, and manages to create a film where the 3D truly enhances the experience, creating a disoriented floating sensation not unlike weightlessness.
Indeed, the entire film has a weightless, serene feeling to it, combined with frequent embryonic imagery in the capsules and many silent exterior scenes of debris hurtling through space in every which way, while ruinous to the exquisite CGI models is also hauntingly beautiful.
However, while the film is visually arresting, the script suffers somewhat from a protagonist who while ultimately strong, driven and perhaps above all human, is let down by an initial portrayal as bumbling and disregarding of important orders. Played by Sandra Bullock, Dr. Ryan Stone is a medical engineer and astronaut who seems genuinely out of her element and sometimes cringe-inducingly oblivious to her surroundings in the first half of the film – traits that while perhaps are necessary to show her later development stretch credulity for a trained astronaut.
Ultimately the script comes into it’s own, but not after some initial hiccups, and one curious choice in the climax which stretches the reasonably high degree realism the film strives to otherwise maintain. This is yet another character-driven moment, and it is these moments which, while providing a necessary integrity to the plot, are also some of the weakest in a film whose actors give excellent performances but simply don’t feel integral.
Perhaps Gravity should not be remembered for it’s characters or plot, but rather for the awe and terror which it’s visuals evoke. It is not an earthly movie – indeed the focus is overwhelmingly kept in space, in weightless sets where the characters are merely instruments in a composed symphony far greater than them. And if it is a symphony, it is a symphony also grounded in realism, in physics which feel realistic to the environment of earth orbit and technically accurate science.
Beyond all else, Gravity is a beautiful movie, and one I unhesitatingly recommend in spite of it’s flaws.