Every now and then a film comes around that truly shakes you to your core. It changes you. It feels less like a film, and more like a life experience. A Journey. Other times, they might not be so much a life journey as it is just a truly engrossing piece of art that sucks you in and never lets you go. Alfonso Cuaron’s latest film Gravity is both of those things. In fact, Gravity is not just a life affirming piece of cinematic art, it’s also one of the best Sci-Fi films ever made. Period.
The story of Gravity is a rather simple one. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are working on a routine space walk mission aboard the space shuttle Explorer, when orbiting Satellite debris collides with the shuttle, destroying it in the process and leaving Matt and Ryan stranded in space, with Ryan unattached to anything in a free fall of sorts. Spinning wildly out of control with extremely limited air supply, Ryan Stone must work with Matt in order to get to the ISS before the satellite debris makes it way back around in 90 minutes.
Gravity acts as one of the most terrifying things to grace the silver screen all year. The idea of being lost in Space, coupled with Cuaron’s claustrophobic and dizzying camerawork makes for some horrific scenery. And to put yourself in Ryan Stone’s shoes, with this shuttle mission and particular space walk being her first, is practically disorienting. In between these terrifying images of shuttles being ripped apart and battling the elements to try to stay alive, Cuaron and cinematographer Emannuel Lubezki inject beautifully serene images that bring a momentary sense of peace. Whether it be a wide shot of the Aurora Borealis looming over earth, or the two characters floating above America at night, lit up like billions of tiny little fireflies. Lubezki, who photographed Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life has truly outdone himself with this film.
Which brings me to my biggest appraisal of this film. Gravity is essentially Life of Pi in space. It’s one narration away from being a Terrence Malick flick. It’s admirable that the Cuaron brother’s wrote this simple little story about a bunch of stuff being destroyed in space and one person trying to make it back to earth, and rather than turning it into a standard Hollywood Michael Bay-Esque action flick, created that life affirming piece of art that I previously mentioned.
It wasn’t just Cuaron and Lubezki who brought their A-Game, however. Sandra Bullock, an actress who has always annoyed me to no end, gives the performance of her entire career here. Great enough for me to demand an immediate lock for a Best Actress win at The Oscars. In a sense, Gravity IS Bullock’s film. Ryan Stone is in every frame of it, and it’s HER struggle to get back to Earth. It’s HER story. And Bullock carries it 100%. Clooney is, well, just Clooney. But his character shares such a beautiful moment with Ryan Stone towards the end that it’s just kind of hard to write off the performance because it FITS. You know?
Gravity is THE BEST film of 2013, as well as being one of the best film’s of the past decade, and surely one of the best Sci-Fi films ever made. See it immediately, preferably in 3D or on the IMAX. It’s breathtaking visuals and intense sequences coupled with the film’s meditations of life and death all make a 90 minutes that you will not regret in the slightest.
I give Gravity 5 out of 5.
By Richard Pepper