GRAVITY, 2013, co-written, co-produced, directed, and co-edited by Alfonso Cuaron.
★★★★ out of ★★★★
An absolute masterpiece if there ever was one, Cuaron demonstrates why he is one of the most important directors alive today.
A science-fiction film with only two leading actors, minimal action, and almost none of the sci-fi cliches? “Impossible” is the word that springs to mind but the Mexican filmmaker’s blockbuster might just very well be the most significant film in the genre you see.
The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts who survive a mid-orbit destruction of their space shuttle and they must attempt to return to Earth.
SPOILER ALERT: SIGNIFICANT PLOT POINTS
With numerous long shots, scarily realistic point-of-view shots, and enough pulsating, heart pounding moments to give you a heart attack, ‘Gravity’ delivers as an unexpected and thoroughly thrilling science-fiction-survival film that reminds us of the power of adversity, the best word to describe Cuaron’s ouerve.
Although interpretations of the film focus on it’s use of religious themes I personally saw the picture as representing the in-vetro cycle. This is not just because Ryan Stone (Bullock) forms a few fetal positions but also because when she crash lands on Earth she is drenched in a metaphorical amniotic fluid (i.e. the salt water of Lake Powell, Arizona) as well as my interpretation of Matt Kowalski’s (Clooney) role in the film as Ryan Stone’s stillborn sibling. After the initial disaster, Stone and Kowalski fasten themselves to each other (as though they are joined together by an umbilical chord) and following a second disaster Kowalski releases and sacrifices himself to allow the emotionally damaged Stone to literally “live”.
I can also show evidence of this interpretation by mentioning the use of radio contact with Houston Control and a very happy Greenlandic Inuit as representing the voices outside the symbolic womb that is space, where weightlessness and moments of claustrophobia are superbly captured with POV shots. Not only this but the Inuit just so happens to be playing with his infant child whilst Stone attempts to communicate to Earth after the first two disasters. And finally, the fact that Stone reveals her masculine name to be the result of a father who desired a son suggests that the character is strong willed which can be demonstrated by the moments of action where (in homage to Ridley Scott’s sci-fi masterpiece ‘Alien’, 1979) Stone takes control of her situation and environments to become a role-model woman.
One of the most oustanding and conceptual moments in the film that also showcases Bullock’s emotional range comes from her journeys to and from the American, Russian, and Chinese space shuttles/stations and finally to the capsule that she guides to Earth, with each docking port reflecting cultural differences between each other but ultimately showing that although we speak different languages, all our guiding systems have the same heart.
Certainly another acute scene in the film is when Stone contemplates resigning herself to float through space and begins to shutdown the oxygen all the while listening to the Inuit radio communication. The unexpected miraculous re-appearance of Kowalski is enough to melt any heart into thinking he survived the drift into space before realising it to be an illusion and a motivational tool for Stone to perform a tribute to the Disney Pixar Animation Studios masterpiece ‘Wall-E’ (2008) by using a fire extinguisher as a makeshift thruster to the Chinese space station and ultimately to guide it to Earth.
Cuaron, famous for directing ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’ (2004) and ‘Children of Men’ (2006) with conceptual and visual awe has presented us with an incredible spectacle of-a-film that raises existential questions with explosive National Geographic imagery that I just might see for a second time.
With just Sandra Bullock and George Clooney carrying the film’s weight they (especially Bullock) prove their abilities to help leap the picture off the screen just like Neil Armstrong’s first step on the Moon. With oustanding production values that include a memorable original score from Steven Price and terrific direction, writing, and cinematography, the film needs very little else to show why it is a predicted frontrunner for the 86th Academy Awards.