There is a sensational and overwhelming power that Alfonso Cuarón‘s space thriller “Gravity” possesses and manages to sustain in its 90 minute run time. I think I left my jaw on the theater floor. There are four things in particular to credit for this occurrence. The first of which being co-writer and director Cuarón, who has constructed one of his finest outings. “Gravity” breathes in a way I haven’t seen before and is probably one of the best technical marvels that cinema has offered in the past twenty years. Cuarón handles the film with absolute certainty, restraining himself from committing any science fiction bourgeois, and reinventing the genre in a miraculous execution.
I’ve never looked at the world of Cinematography with so much respect and adoration until I saw the works of Roger Deakins and now, firmly sitting next to him at the table as the most innovative and brilliant DP working today, Emmanuel Lubezki. We’ve all seen what he’s accomplished in his Oscar-nominated works in “Children of Men,” in which he was teamed up with Cuarón, and Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life,” both of which resulted in unimaginable losses. A 13-minute opening shot shows his abilities to capture the essence of the now, the feelings that life offers. Real life doesn’t cut, Cuarón and Lubezki understand this. The liberties where he chooses to take us, even when we step inside from the cold, lonely edge of space, manages to turn this very simple tale into a full-fledged meditation session with the sooth sounds of composer Steven Price.
Visual effects have never been put to better use than what you will witness in “Gravity.” One of the few films I urge everyone to see on the biggest screen possible. The post-conversion in 3D, although cool at times, was a bit unneeded. It doesn’t add to the depth and scope of Cuarón’s dramatic endeavor, it actually undersells it as a cheap, blockbuster space movie. An IMAX screen, the largest you can find, with a sound system able to make your eardrums bleed, those are the basic requirements. I haven’t been in this much awe of a film’s quality and optics this since I saw “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” when I was six years old. “Avatar” and “Life of Pi” are great spectacles, but this will be revisited in years to come as the bench mark for modern day science fiction. It’s this generation’s “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
Finally, I’ve had a childhood crush on Sandra Bullock since I feasted my eyes on those pretty browns driving a bus in “Speed” during the early 90’s. This manifested into looking at her abilities as an actor with a skewed vision. She’s hinted at this greatness I’ve felt she could achieve in films like “A Time to Kill,” “Crash,” and her Oscar-winning role in “The Blind Side.” Sandra Bullock has finally realized her potential as a leading lady and taps into the very essence of the human spirit as Dr. Ryan Stone; a work that stands as her greatest endeavor and her gift to the silver screen. Natural, poised, and fully engulfed, Bullock is absolutely magnificent and in many ways, my favorite performance of the year so far. She rallies an emotional connection from the audience and demands things of herself that she hasn’t done before. An Oscar-worthy work that should land her as a Best Actress nominee…and perhaps a winner.
George Clooney as Matt Kowalsky is exactly what you’d come to expect from the Oscar-winning producer and actor. He utilizes his wit and charm to be a lighter force of our dark tale, and is a perfect balance to Bullock’s frantic demeanor. As aforementioned, Steven Price‘s musical work is tenderly utilized and precisely executed, building up lots of affectionate tones that may leave some audience members in tears. The script by Alfonso Cuarón and son Jonas Cuarón inhabit a rich texture of dialogue that aren’t thrown in for the sake of breaking the silence. They aren’t afraid to let the scenery speak for itself or to let the actors portray their emotions in mannerisms, but when they step away from that, everything connects beautifully.
“Gravity” is a rare breed. Simplistic but so refreshingly new. Visually, it will be studied for years to come, and thematically, will be revisited by the genre’s most ardent enthusiasts. One of the best films of the year. I’ll say, if you haven’t watched the trailers and clips, continue to do so. Too much information.