How many of us can recall that old adage, “In space no one can hear you scream”? Well in Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film “Gravity”, we are constantly reminded of this saying. In fact, he should probably rewrite it and have it read “Shit happens, even in space”. “Gravity” is a beautifully filmed thriller that is probably more plausible than most outer space set narratives. The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. For the exception of her co-star, nobody else in the film really has much resonance within the story this film is telling. That isn’t to say that other characters in this narrative don’t serve a purpose, but they are more just empty voices. When you see the film or if you have already seen it then you’ll understand what I mean.
Over the course of the past month, “Gravity” has been awarded its fair share of accolades and merits. In terms of visual grandeur and cinematography, “Gravity” is nothing less than deserving. The direction given in this film is flawless and is spectacular to see on the big screen and even better when the theater you are in has a high quality surround sound system. It all forms together into one cohesive moment of awe when the first scene begins to play out on screen. One aspect of “Gravity” that really captured my attention and not to mention my gratitude was how realistically it paints a portrait of space in terms of sound effects, or lack there of. This film really feels like an accurate portrayal of how events like these would play out in a vacuum environment if they were to actually happen. The rising action in “Gravity” begins when debris from a nearby Russian satellite comes into contact with an American space shuttle killing most of the crew and leaving its two survivors stranded in the lifeless depths of space.
One drawback I found with this film, is that clearly it was made to be seen in 3D and I did not. I know that a good amount of people love 3D, but I am just not one of those touched few. Rarely have I seen any film where this technique hasn’t come across as anything more than just a gimmick. People have said that “Gravity” serves as a conclusive argument for why 3D filmmaking is the “next step” in filmmaking. Personally, I just don’t see it that way. You can float something in front of my face as long as you want, it’s not going to change my overall opinion of a film. After awhile it all gives me a headache anyways. Grand visuals and three dimensional tricks should never outway the narrative or character development in a film. “Gravity” comes dangerously close however.
When I first saw the promotional material for this film, it was a poster, I had an idea what it was going to be about. When I saw the first teaser trailer though, I found myself slightly disappointed. My first guess had been about 90% right. I feel that if my prediction had been correct, then my overall opinion of the film itself would have been higher. That being said, the film is currently sitting nicely at 97% on Rotten Tomatoes’ website. I agree with the consensus, but does nearing 100% mean that this film is great? I’m sure that the majority of the population would say yes, but I don’t think so. I would certainly argue that aspects of this film are, but the ones that truly matter sort of fall by the wayside nearing the film’s conclusion.
“Gravity” has a story to tell, the story of a woman trapped in the vastness of space with no one but herself and her own willpower to rely on in order to make it back to earth. Narratives about survival or the enduring nature of the human spirit are major draws to a film; especially for me. In a lot of ways, “Gravity” reminds me of last year’s “Life of Pi”. I left that film the same way I did this one, un-illuminated. I just didn’t feel any depth of emotion throughout this film. It’s difficult to explain why, but I just wasn’t able to form a bond or emotional connection with Sandra Bullock’s character. I wanted to! Maybe it was because after an hour and a half of watching her bounce and wall-e herself around getting tangled up and crashing into every rope, tether, and space vehicle Nasa has ever designed; her emotional journey was somewhat diminished for me by the end.
I think back to films like “Apollo 13” or even 2009’s “Moon”. Vastly different films, but what made them so resonant, was that the films gave room enough for themselves to exist outside the realm of their own initial action scenarios. What I mean is, in “Apollo 13”, this film is able to successfully create an emotional connection between us and the three characters who are trapped in space because the film allows us to see past them and back onto earth where we are able to witness all the people and loved ones they are fighting so hard to stay alive for. “Moon” is somewhat similar, but to go into detail would spoil too much of the film’s plot. “Gravity” attempts this, but never really succeeds. It creates a loophole effect, in the sense that Sandra Bullock’s character is fighting to stay alive for herself and for all those who have died to save her. There is nothing back on earth for her that’s worth fighting to get back to. This could have been an equally affecting piece of storytelling, but in my opinion it’s one of “Gravity”s few pitfalls. This aspect of the story is formed more through visuals than anyone’s actual performances. It just isn’t fully formed. Now onto the character played by George Clooney. He is the saving grace of this film, if it weren’t for his character, then I would have probably enjoyed “Gravity” even less, he steals every scene that he’s in. He’s also one of the main bones I have to pick with about “Gravity”. Clooney’s character is more interesting and engaging than the film’s central protagonist. I don’t get it.
Anyways I have ranted enough. “Gravity” is a really good film full of spectacular visuals and highly plausible depictions of existence in a vacuum environment. The film tip toes the line between honoring its computer generated effects at the expense of its characters and plot, but still manages to create an engaging enough narrative. I didn’t manage to formulate a deep emotional bond with the film’s title character, but that doesn’t mean you won’t personally. Above all else “Gravity” tells an affecting story that will resonate with most viewers long after the ending credits roll and the only thing more spectacular than this film’s visuals is its direction and cinematography. Alfonso Cuarón’s has really created something beautiful here and at the end of the day “Gravity” is nothing short of Oscar worthy. So expect to hear mention of this film again come February. I’ll certainly be cheering for it. If I could give “Gravity” four and half stars I would, but I just can’t make it to five. I really liked this film as a whole, but it didn’t connect with me in the way I was hoping it would. It still should be seen by all and I look forward to discussing this film with all who approach me about my opinions. Until next time fellow movie fans and cinefiles.