Ever since I started watching films I have always known how all the stuff behind the scenes was done. Be it miniatures or CGI, I’ve always known. There has not been a single film in which I genuinely do not know how it was made … until now. Gravity is the first film I’ve seen where I am at a complete loss to explain how it was made. This brilliance in the visuals extends to the whole film making it one of the best films of the year.
The plot of the film is incredibly simple. Two astronauts, an experienced professional on his last mission and a rookie, are left floating in space after their shuttle is destroyed by debris and they have to get back to the International Space Station to get back to Earth. What I love about the film is that the plot doesn’t overstay it’s welcome. This plot can only sustain about 90 minutes of screentime and that’s how long the film is, with the film being so perfectly paced that I didn’t even know 90 minutes had passed until I looked at my watch after the film had finished. What’s more, this plot allows for discussions about death and the desire to live, seamlessly weaved into the narrative.
That stuff wouldn’t work though without good actors to carry the film, and since there are only 2 people on screen for most of the film, we needed some damn good actors. Thankfully, Gravity has Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Bullock plays Ryan Stone, the rookie, with a great sense of fear over just how out of her depth she is in this situation, along with the standard fear or potentially floating in space for eternity, her inexperience of space and grief over stuff that I won’t spoil here. For a lot of the film, she has to do this through the tone of her voice and her eyes, making this an incredibly difficult performance to pull off and Bullock nails it, making Stone one of the best characters of the year. George Clooney meanwhile is perfectly cast as Matthew Kowalski, the experienced professional. At the start of the film, you think that he’ll be annoying but as the film goes on, it makes sense why he acts the way he does, he’s trying to keep Stone calm and give her something to fix onto. He also gives a great sense of confidence and experience, again solely through the tone of his voice and the natural confidence in Clooney’s voice makes him perfect for the role. If either performance had been bad, the film would not have worked but because of how great Bullock and Clooney are, the quality of the film is enhanced.
The real reason to see this film though is the technical side of the film. Simply put, the film is gorgeous. There are many shots in the film that are perfect examples of scene composition and visual storytelling with Alfonso Cuaron’s direction of the film being the best directing he’s ever done, no small feat considering he also did Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. The tradition of Cuaron’s long shots is also continued in this film with the opening shot of the film. This shot lasts for 17 minutes and is so well done, I thought only 5 minutes had passed. It’s worth seeing the film for this scene alone. This scene also highlights something about the film as a whole, I don’t know how a lot of the stuff was done. There were multiple points watching the film where I just thought, how did they do that, a lot of it being focused on the movement of all the objects and the actors in the film, especially in the second half. Obviously there was some involvement from people who worked at NASA or on the ISS for showing the effects department how the objects moved but I don’t know how they did all the movements for Bullock and Clooney and their interactions with the objects without filming their scenes in zero gravity. The whole filmmaking for the scenes in space feels less like an action film and more like one of those IMAX 3D documentaries, in fact, earlier this year I went to see Space Junk 3D in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum and one of the parts of the film predicts something very much like what happens in the film.
The sound of the film is also incredible. I really like how there is virtually no sound outside of what Stone and Kowalski hear in their suits for most of the film and the music in the film really helps tell the story and enhance the experience. One last thing on the technical side of the film is the 3D. This is a film that needs to be seen in 3D. Cuaron’s direction and the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki was made to be seen in 3D and the way it is incorporated into the film is incredible. Whilst it is not necessary to see Gravity in 3D to see how brilliant it is, the 3D turns Gravity from an excellent film to a must-see experience.
Overall, Gravity is an excellent film. The simple story allows for brilliant character development, aided by fantastic performances from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, with some of the best directing and cinematography I’ve ever seen, with many scenes being incredible pieces of art in their own right. Gravity is a film that needs to be seen in the cinema and in 3D if you can.
My Rating: 5/5