“Gravity”: a powerful force, a more powerful film
Spencer Brannon, Contributing Writer
October 11, 2013
Filed under Arts & Entertainment
I decided upon a whim this past Saturday to watch Academy Award-nominated Alfonso Cuarón’s recently released film “Gravity.” Prior to that day, I had never heard of the film, and yet the internet was ablaze with glowing approbation from Saturday onward. I didn’t know the context of the plot, had never seen a trailer and didn’t even know the film’s stars were Oscar winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Despite this, from the opening scene, I knew it was a film that I’d never forget.
The film features Bullock in one of her strongest performances ever as the scientist-turned-astronaut Ryan Black, a role that does seem to be written especially for the stoic and stubborn repertoire of the actress and yet amazingly was not. Her performance in “Gravity” is not only among her strongest ever, but it is surely one of her most difficult. For most of the movie, she acts alone and must represent the solitude and imminent loneliness through the confines of a space suit and glass-screened helmet. Bullock not only succeeds, but thrives in the environment, communicating each thought and emotion with a clarity that begs an Oscar nomination.
The heart-stopping performance of Bullock and the surreal world created by the impressive special effects enthrall the audience, with one scene lasting four or five minutes seeming to stretch for the full ninety minutes enacted in the film. The thrilling suspense of the film destroys the concept of time and completely removes you from the confines of the sixty-second minute. At the end of the ninety minute film, the audience emerges confusedly wondering how in only ninety minutes they experienced a lifetime of sorrow, terror and hope — and perplexed by their gut reaction to do it again.
“Gravity” is a simple story, easily capable of being crafted by a third grader’s daydreaming. And yet this simplicity lends the film an immense power, using its simplicity of plot to allow us to delve deeper into the profundity of the story it tells and to examine ourselves within the context of Bullock’s struggles. This is where her strength really shows — as we leave the film thinking as if we were Ryan Black and had ourselves experienced the arrant despair of space-bound isolation.
The majestic global pans of the movie offer a surreal experience that draws the audience in with such force that it is impossible at some points to remember you are in fact merely watching it from the Earth-grounded seat of a theatre. The perfectly employed 3D technology in the film only furthers the surreal nature of the cinematography. A note of caution: these scenes are so realistic and powerful that they may cause motion sickness.
The breathtaking direction and production employed by Cuarón (who is perhaps best known for directing Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban), while skillfully crafted and expertly executed, struggle at times to mesh with the clunky dialogue that accompanies such a character-free film. At points in the beginning of the film, I was left to wonder whether the expository dialogue and annoying banter of Clooney’s character was entirely necessary. It certainly did little to advance the idea of immersion in the film, with his awkwardly-written lines jarring the audience just as it settles into the seemingly dream-laden world of space. This is in stark in contrast to the expertly-crafted scenes of Bullock’s soliloquies at the film’s center.
This may be the only major shortcomings of a film that succeeds in not only entertaining but in challenging its audience. The film leaves you thinking not for hours but for days after, deeply pondering the symbolic gestures and introspective questions is poses. In modern days of formula fiction and increasingly shallow plots, “Gravity” stands out as a beacon. It is as gripping as it is introspective, as poignant as it is enthralling, and as amazing as it is powerful.