Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are on a mission in space to fix some fancy machinery. Suddenly, right before finishing their job and safely returning to earth with the rest of the crew space junk from another satellite hits their space shuttle. Stone finds herself catapulted into big black space seemingly drifting away forever. Fortunately, her charming colleague can keep his cool in a situation of chaos and mayhem. He is able to retrieve her, but her oxygen levels are low. Time is of the essence and now the two sole survivors of the expedition will have to find a way to reach the next space station and get back to earth. Unfortunately, their troubles have only begun. Will they make it to the Chinese station where the vodka is safely stashed in a place only Clooney knows? Don’t worry: No spoilers.
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity might just be the first live-action film to justify the use of 3D and make it look good. Granted, with the amount of CGI I wouldn’t blame anyone for calling this an animated film. Still, the picture looks beautiful, the camera floats fluidly through space like the astronauts themselves and the computer generated imagery never appears to be fake or distracting. If however you’re wearing glasses like yours truly and you have sensitive eyes. It will probably take you a bit to get used to, but believe me when I say the film is worth seeing in 3D, because I never say that. Much of the film’s beauty doesn’t come from the framing or the interiors, but rather the view of space. It’s not like we get to see that everyday, so it was definitely my favorite part of the film.
While Cuarón could be considered an auteur, the film is fairly loud and uses music to scare you and put you on the edge of your seat: A cheap tactic used more commonly by the average horror director. Nevertheless, the tension build-up works in the film and you are constantly wondering what will happen next. In the case of my friend and I, we were speculating how things could get worse. It was kind of almost too much after a certain point. Because of the film having fairly strong scenes from the get go, the filmmakers felt the needed things to escalate to avoid an anti-climatic pacing. While the film was very tense and intense, some scenes making you feel completely powerless and hopeless, there was still a good degree of humor to take off the edge. Most of the humor came from Clooney’s character, while Bullock played the more dramatic scenes, in which she’s does mostly a fine job.
Overall: I liked Gravity, but at the end of it I couldn’t help but feeling that there wasn’t much to it besides what was visible on a surface level. It is completely possible that the film’s message went right over my head, however I didn’t sense much subtext or depth underneath the disaster story. Yes, there was some heavy-handed symbolism in there somewhere, but not much more than that I’m afraid to say. In short: It’s a scaled-down blockbuster with good-looking imagery, a gripping atmosphere and satisfying performances. Just don’t look for too much meaning and you should be able to enjoy it for what it is.
Rating on First Viewing
(at the Zurich Film Festival)
7 out of 10