It has been seven long years since respected Mexican auteur Alfonso Cuaron’s Children of Men left me speechless. The dystopic and cautionary thriller about life without fertility showcased the exhilarative strengths of a very gifted director. With Gravity, Cuaron transcends the usual conventions of viewing cinema and transports audiences as close as he can to a majestic, yet terrifyingly realistic final frontier. Adopting 3D technology flawlessly and to its fullest extent, Cuaron orchestrates an intense and claustrophobic thrill ride that will throttle and spellbind spectators into breathless submission.
The first 13 minutes (now – one of the all-time great openings) reveals Bio-medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) on mission to run maintenance on the Hubble Telescope. Without a single ‘visible’ edit, the stunning continuous photography by Emmanuel Lubezki (Tree of Life, Children of Men) does the unthinkable – it immerses you into feeling 600 km above the earth as well.
When word from Mission Control (voiced by Ed Harris – a nice reference to Apollo 13) states that debris from a neighbouring space station is heading directly for their position, Cuaron/Lubezki do everything in their power to make you feel the full extent of these astronaut’s peril and terror. As Stone and Kowalski scramble to survive, the camera flips, weaves and rotates, swapping seamlessly from POV shots to gorgeous wide shots revealing both the magnificent splendour and absolute horror of being suspended and stranded in the vast nothingness of space.
Thankfully, the film is a vigorously paced, tightly edited 90-minute journey, because visceral experiences like this have an adverse physical affect on one’s breathing patterns. There were innumerable moments when I found myself gasping for air, reminding myself that I too was losing oxygen.
This film demands being seen on the largest screen possible and in 3D. While I have never been an advocate for 3D viewing, I can honestly say that 3D has never been so vitally effective and executed with such perfection. Cuaron understands and exploits the extra dimension to enhance both the exquisiteness of space and the menace of its possibilities.
I should also take the time to publicly apologise to Sandra Bullock. The actor I often sight as marvellously over-rated gives the performance of her lifetime in this role. Carrying many sequences alone and with little dialogue, stretching every ounce of her being into this physically and emotionally demanding and exhaustive role. In a perfect world she would be a strong contender to win a much more deserved Oscar than the one she was handed for The Blind Side.
Believe the hype. Gravity is a dazzlingly rare and original modern day masterpiece. A fusion of cinematic perfection.
No hyperbole here. This is a classic.