I think I’ve made it clear that I’m not much of a sci-fi fan, and in particular I’m not really a fan of the kind of special effects-driven sci-fi blockbusters that seem to be more and more prevalent in today’s movie landscape. And why is this? Well, I guess it’s mostly because so much of today’s science fiction asks us to be passively entertained by overblown spectacle, and doesn’t invite us to feel any sort of emotion other than “Hey, that’s pretty cool.” Fortunately Alfonso Cuaron, the writer/director who brought us Children of Men is back, and has given us a film that grabs you by the throat, and forces you to feel a whole wide range of gripping emotions, while also providing some seamless special effects that are, well, pretty cool.
Gravity begins with an extended tracking shot (or perhaps floating shot), that sees astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) miles above Earth’s atmosphere, in the middle of a routine repair outside of their space station. They’re then informed that the Russian’s have used a missile to destroy one of their own space stations, and the debris could be headed towards them. This of course happens, and the two astronauts are sent hurtling through space after a chaotic explosion tears the space station apart. This then leads to a spaceborne fight for survival as the two free-floating astronauts are forced to find some way of not dying an inevitable space death.
I must admit that I did not see this movie in Imax, nor 3-D. Which I am now regretting since it seems like every review of Gravity has said something to the effect of “You’re not really seeing this movie unless you see it in 3-D on a giant-ass screen”. Yet, regardless of that, because of the high amount of craft and care that’s been put into the film on a technical level, I still felt completely immersed in every moment of this film. And I don’t think that’s a feat to be scoffed at, considering that having a movie set entirely in space doesn’t quite have the same allure as when Kubrick unleashed 2001 on the world all those years ago.
Yet, Gravity somehow manages to evoke the kind of awe and wonder that space travel should evoke. And at the same time, it also captures the incredible terror of what it’d be like to be stranded out in the unforgiving blackness of outer space, which to me seems like literally the scariest fucking thing a human being could experience. But that’s what makes this film so exhilarating. I actually left the theater feeling as though I’d just experienced something that I’d never experienced before. And how often does that happen?
Now, perhaps not seeing the film through the tint of 3-D glasses or on an enormous screen did cause me to pick up on a few of Gravity‘s flaws. Obviously, from a scientific standpoint there are a number of moments that force you to suspend disbelief, and this seems even more apparent after reading articles like this one and this one. Also, the Sandra Bullock character’s backstory seems a bit undercooked, while some of the dialogue is a bit clunky, though the Cloon-dog’s affable charm remains unflappably intact. But these quibbles are tiny dots in a film that’s full of huge, awe-inspiring moments that also feel oddly intimate and human at the same time. Honestly, I hardly ever see movies more than once in theaters, but I think I’ve got to plunk down the money to see how awesome this thing looks in 3-D and on a giant-ass screen.