Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
An accident in space forces two astronauts to struggle to survive.
I admit to taking forever to actually see this amazing film. I admit I like my science fiction a bit more fanciful than this is. At least that is what I gravitate towards first. This is a much harder science-fiction film than say Terminator or Star Wars. They are not even in the same neighborhood. How grounded it is has more in common with 2001: A Space Odyssey than it does anything else. It is not to say they do not take liberties with science to tell a good story, but it is my understanding those liberties are small and few and far between. I am no scientist so unless Neil DeGrasse Tyson bitches I will not know.
Cuarón, who co-wrote, co-edited and produced the film ALONG with directing it crafts a compelling story with only two characters in the whole movie. Aside from the first five or 10 minutes of contact with NASA and the one other gentleman on the space walk with them, the film is carried by George Clooney (as team commander Lt. Matt Kowalski) and Sandra Bullock (as medical engineer and mission specialist Dr. Ryan Stone). That is more than a little unusual. It would not be unexpected for there to be a scene set at NASA with characters trying to figure out what is going on that think our two heroes are alive, but you never see that. And that was an absolutely brilliant move. It made for a better and more immersive film with a tighter narrative.
SPOILER—There really are only two characters for about half the movie or so until Matt sacrifices himself so that Dr. Stone has a shot of getting back. It is an absolutely heartbreaking moment and when she is hallucinating in the capsule you buy his miraculous return as they play it out because that’s what normally happens in a Hollywood movie but here it didn’t. He was dead and she just had a moment where her subconscious was talking to her. I bring this up because it was a bold narrative move and definitely not the norm. Usually the smaller the cast the more that survive. In a cast this small it is almost a guarantee all make it home but not here.
Despite the weak prospects, this survival film is all about hope. There is a sense of that throughout the film. At first it is just embodied by George Clooney but eventually Stone embraces it as well. She is a broken character with, in her mind, more reasons to die than to live. She is still mourning the death of her daughter who died young in an accident. You are left with the feeling that death is more appealing to her than life since it offers her a chance to see her daughter once again.
And the film itself looks gorgeous. British VFX company Framestore is responsible for the bulk of the shots and deserves a shoutout here because the effects shots are absolutely beautiful. The portions set within the assorted capsules and space stations look authentic to the point you almost believe you are there. Just amazing!
Our two characters are struggling to survive by the skin of their teeth against hopeless odds and grasping at whatever straws they can come up with to make it just a little longer and a little further along. Think of it like a shipwreck in space with the main characters having to struggle through the ocean of darkness to make it to land which is represented by the ISS and Tiangong stations in this case. The sense of fighting for survival is kept all the way to the very last shot of this film.
Gravity is an utterly amazing movie. I tend to like my science fiction a little more on the fanciful side and less on the hard science side, but this movie gets so much right and just looks so good and is an amazing story. The story was kept tight and focused and the characters were engaging. This is a must see.