Space is a frontier vastly unknown. The dark emptiness is exponentially daunting and the never-ending silence is deafening. Hollywood has tried to capture the innate terror that space ensues, but most attempts have come up short. There are some exceptions that buck the trend. Ridley Scott’s 1979 hit “Alien” and Ron Howard’s 1995 feat “Apollo 13” are good examples. It’s time to add a new film to the list of greatest science fiction films.
“Gravity,” starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, is a riveting and emotional drama that tugs the audience in many directions, tethering them to fears they had never thought of before. The cinematic magic behind every stroke of Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s guidance makes “Gravity” stunningly picturesque. Right as the film opens, viewers are drawn in with a stunning wide shot illustrating the vast emptiness which is space. It is hard not to be reminded of Stanley Kubrick’s infamous opening in the 1968 masterpiece “2001: A Space Odyssey.”
While the visual effects and directing in “Gravity” are the best in recent memory, the film itself would be nothing without the performances of Bullock and Clooney. The two actors share flawless chemistry as their characters are thrown into the unimaginable situation of being left alone, stranded in space. Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a timid medical engineer venturing into space for the first time. From the onset, the Oscar-winning actress brings her A-game. Bullock’s performance transcends any of her previous work, including her award- winning portrayal of Leigh Anne Tuohy in the 2009 sports drama “The Blind Side.” Viewers following Dr. Stone’s arc will instinctively find themselves rooting for her in even the most impossible situations.
Even in the depths of deep space, the charisma of Clooney is inescapable. The 52-year-old star plays the part of Matt Kowalski, a veteran astronaut who guides the novice Dr. Stone in her mission. In contrast to his female counterpart, Kowalski is a talkative character always looking for the positive. This is what makes the two main characters so compatible and entertaining together.
The plot to “Gravity” is simple, and to delve into it would be nothing but a spoiler. But within the story itself, Alfonso Cuarón includes multiple moments of resonating metaphor. Dr. Stone is used as a vessel of deeper meaning. Every action she takes has deep symbolism. Every conversation she has, whether it be with herself or with Kowalski, sheds light on an innate personal battle relatable to an average person, magnified by the fact that she is coming to terms with these issues hundreds of miles above the surface of the Earth.
There are a select few films in cinema history that can claim they forever changed the evolutionary realm of special/visual effects. In 1977 George Lucas shocked the world with the effects in “Star Wars,” and more recently James Cameron revolutionized the idea of 3D cinema with “Avatar” in 2009. Now it’s Alfonso Cuarón’s turn. His ability to use new technology and create the most realistic zero-gravity movie since “2001: A Space Odyssey” makes “Gravity” one of the most memorable visual spectacles ever to appear on the silver screen.
Cuarón, with his creative drive and impeccable ability to make fantastic special effects the secondary aspect to great storytelling, has made one of the greatest science fiction movies of all time. “Gravity” takes the audience into the vastly unknown environment of space and somehow grounds earthly fear into everyone watching.
Stanko Rating: A+