Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity offers a lot of insight into the human condition throughout its duration and certainly takes its audience on a journey of survival and rebirth. Perhaps not as strenuous a journey as the protagonist, Ryan Stone, played spectacularly by Sandra Bullock, has to undergo and I have to say I would not recommend this film to anyone who cares about the state of their nails. The spectacular wide shots remind you how insignificant the Earth is within the solar system and the visuals are breath taking. It’s almost a reminder of how the Earth looks from space as in this age of technological advancements, the beauty of nature can be forgotten behind, albeit seamless, computer generated images. Similarly, with this in mind, perhaps this film presents the perfect opportunity to marvel at the heights human achievement. Although, I think that as the film is based in our own reality that makes the use of graphics, which is considerable, seem limited and subtle and in doing so does not distract the audience. Which unfortunately, for example, I don’t feel I could say about The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.
The film commences as the title pans across the screen and an ominous tone builds and builds shaking your 3D glasses until suddenly, it stops and the first shot begins. We are welcomed by the familiar sight of Earth’s surface. The opening shot stretches for an absurdly long time, but the film is aptly named, as it immediately draws you in. The film is full of techniques that keep you hooked as one of the team. There are many point of view shots that could almost make you feel nauseous if you suffer from motion sickness, and you may try to dodge the oncoming debris if you watch it in 3D. Furthermore the abrupt cuts to silence are almost claustrophobic and leave your heart in your mouth as the scene unfolds. Whilst in the cinema I found myself following the instructions of George Clooney’s character and sipping breaths rather than gulping, “it’s wine not beer”. As ever the pristine expanses presented in the visuals are enhanced immeasurably by Steven Price’s score.
Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone.
As a whole the film encapsulates life through Ryan’s journey of desperation, fear and hopelessness. These emotions may be universal but when honed in on in such away they amplify and their impact can be seen all the clearer. Ryan’s character is strong and inspirational and we get to know her over the course of the film as we learn about her difficult past. When she eventually accepts her fate and breaks into tears, (a lot later into the film than the male characters of Star Trek Into Darkness would have made it), the raw emotion seems real and it’s very easy to sympathise with. Sandra Bullock’s performance in Gravity is sublime, and I couldn’t falter it, and with the award season on the horizon, I wouldn’t be surprised to be watching Sandy B make her way up those stairs in a month or two.
Whilst watching the film I did notice a few elements that made me think it was an allegory for birth, or in this case, rebirth. We join Ryan on her journey from when she is one of many to survive in an environment where she is as good as non-existent. Once she removes her space suit in the space station, in the zero gravity she floats perfectly into the foetal position, framed by the circular hatch behind her and with tubing floating beside her in line with her stomach. She travels alone to the capsule, whilst there she succumbs to complete helplessness, but fights it and decides she wants to live and embarks on returning to Earth. Once on Earth, she opens the hatch and the capsule fills with water, she swims to the surface of the river and onto the bank. Tentatively stands and takes her first steps in her new life.
Co-starring George Clooney as Matt Kowalski, the film has a very small cast as you would expect from a drama set in space. Clooney’s character offers the slight comic relief in the film with the tall tales from his past, roguish behaviour and at one point, when Ryan expresses she doesn’t know how to fly a particular space craft he remarks, “It’s not rocket science”. Watching this film I was reminded of other films with a similar premise of a journey of survival, such as Alien, Apollo 13, 127 Hours, Cast Away, Buried and Open Water.
This life affirming story presents the fragility of life but also how fleeting it can be, for example when we hear of how Ryan’s daughter died. Additionally, how insignificant life can seem in relation to the rest of the universe. You will be on the edge of your seat for the entirety of this film and you will be taken on a journey of astronomical proportions. However, in doing so it poses a question to its audience to ask themselves why they carry on doing what they’re doing day after day. After Ryan decided that life is worth living she says, “It’s going to be one hell of a ride. I’m ready.”