Posted by Sean van der Heijden
I got the chance to see Alfonso Cuar??n's "Gravity" down in Clifton Park-a film I've been looking forward to for a ridiculously long amount of time. It's about two astronauts who struggle for survival after floating debris collides with their spaceship, leaving them detached and adrift in space. It's not so much sci-fi as it is drama-thriller, and when I say "thriller" I don't mean that lightly. It was literally the most stressful 90-minutes of my life, but I was in awe during every second of it.
Cuar??n, who directed, co-wrote, produced and helped edit the film, hasn't done a full-length feature since 2006's poignant "Children of Men," but "Gravity" was well worth the wait. It's one of the best-directed films I've ever seen. Cuar??n's use of incredibly long takes draws the viewer in so that they physically cannot turn away. The film starts out with a 17-minute shot-no editing, no cuts. It's just the camera moving from one subject to another, in-and-out, close up and far away-all over the place, really. Space is limitless, and so is Cuar??n.
It's tough to appreciate just how masterful this film is until you see it for yourself. Set miles above earth's surface, every single take is absolutely gorgeous. The visuals are stunning, the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is some of the best work I've ever seen. Steven Price's electric and ethereal score only adds to the tense atmosphere. The earth itself turns into a character, and it's used brilliantly all the way up until the very end.
As for the performances, well, there are really only two significant roles. George Clooney plays a veteran astronaut out on his last mission, and serves as a form of moral support to Sandra Bullock's character-Dr. Ryan Stone-who's up on her very first mission. Clooney does a fine job and is an integral part of the plotline, but it's Bullock who utterly dominates the screen time, giving a fearless and absorbing performance like never before.
It's by far the best work of her career-Dr. Stone is so real that it's scary. You laugh when she laughs, you cry when she cries, and you're breathless as she's struggling for air. The emotions that Cuar??n was able to elicit from her truly pull you into the film and make this an experience like no other. While the script isn't necessarily the best written, and most certainly skims the line of oversentimentality at times, those issues are secondary to the visuals and performances themselves.
It's truly an out-of-body experience, and probably the closet most of us will ever get to actually being in space.