Review : Gravity (2013)
"Don't Let Go"
Released (UK) 7th November 2013, Rated 12A. Runtime: 91 minutes (1 hours, 31 minutes).
Official Synopsis: A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.
Blue Corner Review, by Pete
Added November 18th, 2013
Despite the acclaim of his 2006 release Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón has made everyone wait for his next Directorial feature movie – a seven year release cycle putting even Damien Rice to shame. Almost as surprisingly, two of the biggest names working in Hollywood were convinced to be brought together to make a 90 minute film which largely involves just the one character.
Gravity revolves around ‘specialist’ Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) – one of two scientists on their first outing as fully fledged astronauts tasked with repairing a sensor array on-board a geostationary satellite. Following a substantial and technically impressive extended single-take introduction (I personally love them), a communication from earth (the voice of Ed Harris, presumably in homage to Apollo 13) warns of a controlled Russian satellite destruction having gone disastrously wrong, creating a potentially deadly debris field heading in their direction – and deadly it proves to be. Previously safely tethered to the shuttle, as the debris hits Stone is tossed unceremoniously ‘off structure’ into the vast emptiness of space – whilst this may sound like a blessing given the fate that befalls most of the crew, Stone is left spinning uncontrollably into the depths of the cosmos with only veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) able to hear her (radioed) cries for help.
Very much a survival film, Stone is left with a battle against the odds (both physically and mentally) to return home – the initial debris cloud creating a domino effect as it takes out further satellites and stations in the earth’s orbit, resulting an ever increasing risk circling the planet every 90 minutes which is systematically taking out the ever decreasing options left to get back. There’s no doubt that the A-B-C disaster chains are going to unfold into one another, just as they aptly provide a convenient breathing space for some melodramatic (and arguably wholly extraneous, if not forced) character development aimed to give us some kind of emotional tie to Bullock’s character – unfortunately it’s the later segments that bring the overall film down, even if we would be left with 90 minutes of a CGI-surrounded character being bumped around in space without them.
Bullock & Clooney play themselves in space, essentially, and to be fair there’s little wrong with that – it’s just a shame that they decide to throw every standard, clichéd movie trope at them during their limited thematic development ‘rest bite’ segments, ranging from confirming that this was the commander’s final mission in space (always a guaranteed death, even without a red shirt in sight) to moving Stone on from the death of her daughter. Being the only other actor that we really get to see on screen, Clooney’s Matt Kowalski plays the assured, suave counter to the panic-ridden, jittery Stone, getting to provide both the comic relief as well as the mandatory flirtation with Bullock – had Clooney been an astronaut it would require some effort to picture him being that far removed from the character served up on-screen. Ignoring the forced character stories, there is actually a decent enough thriller here – at several stages I was convinced that no-one was making it back in one piece, and realistically that’s exactly what you want from any thriller (irrespective of setting). The downside being that I didn’t really care if Bullock was going to make it back or if she was instead going to be turned into an overdone marshmallow in Earth’s upper atmosphere, although it would have been a cruel (yet appreciated) twist had she died in the water in the final scene, having made it that far despite all odds.
Overall, enjoyable – open space is a setting that’s relatively untouched, and there was enough to hold my attention, even if the film is unlikely to ever earn a second viewing (granted, most things rarely do). The ‘making of’ might warrant a check in though if just to see how they handled the single take shots in a largely CGI environment.