“Gravity” is an achievement in modern filmmaking and is easily one of the best films of the year. That is a simple fact. It is impossible to find words that can portray how magnificent this film is.
Director Alfonso Cuarón ingeniously took so many elements and found a way to piece them together to create a visually stunning, emotionally heavy character study that is truly thrilling, haunting and breathtaking. Topped off with a career-defining performance from Sandra Bullock, “Gravity” is a game changer that will affect the landscape of film as we know it.
The story takes place in space during a shuttle mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope. Throughout the entire movie we see the darkness of space, but Earth is consistently on-screen. It acts as a symbol, a constant reminder of how small we are in the universe and how utterly beautiful it is. It reminds us of the wonder that space was when we were young, but this film also teaches us how terrifying it can be.
Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki carefully crafted the film to highlight the vastness and loneliness of space while juxtaposing its landscape with the emotional journey of Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone. The film opens with a nearly 20-minute uninterrupted shot that sets up the film — a catastrophe that leaves Stone and partner Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney, stranded and fighting for survival.
Cuarón, who co-wrote the screenplay with his son, was careful to let the visuals tell the bulk of the story, but not just the physical. While we are exposed to moments of suspense and action, Cuarón equally focuses on the emotional journey of Bullock’s character.
She is unflinching in her portrayal of a first-time space traveler who is forced to fight for her life. It is her story we are watching and her emotions we are experiencing. Ultimately, Cuarón allows Bullock to do the work, and she rises to the occasion.
The film is tense to say the least. Every moment begs the question: “Will she survive?” Bullock’s physicality suggests her emotional state perfectly. One of the most effective shots of the film is a view of Bullock curled up in a fetal position floating through zero gravity. It is some of the best physical acting to grace the silver screen. Coupled with silent close-ups of Bullock’s face, it’s easy to forget about the incredible CGI effects just to watch Bullock’s performance — one of the best of the year.
“Gravity” is the kind of film that makes the audience ask: “What’s next?”
Where can the art of film go after this? “Gravity” is not groundbreaking — it is earth-shattering. It opens up a new frontier in filmmaking. It is going to allow us to make films in places we thought to be impossible. Don’t be surprised if it picks up a few Oscars, including a well-deserved second trophy for Bullock.
“Gravity” won’t only change the way we make movies. It will transform the way we watch movies too. This is a film that we should celebrate as a triumph and as the next step in the evolution of cinema.