TIFF 2013: Gravity
What Director Alfonso Cuarón has achieved with Gravity is nothing short of a mind-bending technological marvel. This inventive and ground-breaking film takes the audience on an intensely wild and immersive ride in what is probably the closest thing most people will ever get to being in outer space.
Astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) are on a space walk to make repairs to the Hubble Telescope when debris from a destroyed Russian satellite enters their orbit. Stone and Kowalsky are in mortal danger as their shuttle, the telescope, and their crew are hit. Stone becomes detached off-structure and begins drifting. In a panic, Stone finds she still has contact with Kowalsky and he guides her actions. The shuttle has suffered catastrophic failure and they have lost communication with Houston on the ground. They are stranded and alone.
What follows is a cascading series of events caused by a ripple effect of the initial accident and a desperate attempt to save themselves from certain death. This is a story of ingenuity and survival.
Gravity is best viewed with only cursory knowledge of the plot details which allows itself to unravel as the audience enjoys the journey. Many people may ask how one can sustain an entire movie based on this premise alone, but what the director has created keeps the tension ratcheted up and the action taught. From the incredible single-take 10-plus minute opening shot to the symbolic final frame, the film leaves the audience disoriented, captivated and shaken.
Complaints about scientific inaccuracies have been raised about the film, as is the case with any science fiction film, and fears about whether the events that unfold are believable, but ultimately these are unfounded and do not matter. For the average audience, this will not make a difference in their enjoyment of the film. This is not a documentary about being an astronaut, the space shuttle, or orbital physics, at its core it is a thrilling tale of survival and a fantastic piece of entertainment.
There is perhaps some unevenness in the writing of the personality of Bullock’s character, and several uses of convenient cinematic passages of time, but the wholly immersive experience created here more than makes up for these immaterial flaws. A heart-pounding score, astounding visual effects, and simple yet solid writing combine to create memorable cinematic experience. Bullock, isolated and alone for the majority of the film, delivers some of her best work and just may earn her a second Academy Award for what she has done here.
This is the kind of film experience we rarely see. Through his innovation and vision in visual effects, the director has created something new. His willingness to stay on the progressive edge of cinema has pushed filmmaking forward into new territory, into the future. This is masterful filmmaking that reminds us just how enjoyable the cinematic adventure can be.