Lost in space. Never before has it felt terrifyingly realistic.
“Gravity” is a work of fiction, but it certainly doesn't feel like it. This summer at Comic-Con, director Alfonso Cuaron said that it took over four years to figure out the technology of zero gravity and shoot the film. The proof is unmistakable. This is one film meant to be seen on the big screen, in 3-D, and better yet, IMAX.
The silent opening stuns with the truth about being in space; it's simply not livable. Then in an astounding, long continuous take of earth and space, a shuttle comes into view and magnifies, with living beings gliding in space. It shows how small humans are in the greater universe.
Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock, "The Lake House"), a medical engineer on her first mission, is in the process of installing a scanning device under the guidance of fleet commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, “The Descendants”) and communication with NASA. There's another astronaut working on the exterior of the spacecraft and other crew inside.
While Kowalski goes on a jovial spacewalk, there's news that clouds of debris are brewing and heading toward them at breakneck speed, a chain reaction after a satellite is destroyed by the Russians. From the first strike, you'll find yourself holding your breath and feel Dr. Stone's disorientation where she spins and spins, and greatly fears of getting stranded and adrift in infinity. When she and Kowalski finally connect, the goal is to get to the ISS and Chinese space station, call for rescue and find their way back to earth.
Clooney charms in his limited role, injecting levity and making light of the dark doom. Ultimately though, this is Bullock's picture. Survival becomes Dr. Stone's sole mission. Alone and adrift, she's low on oxygen and fuel, nauseous and dizzy, desperate and scared to death. She must let go of the past, find the will to survive, make the right trajectory to the space station and find a way back home. The destruction of the space station in the vast vacuum of space is eye-popping. The countdown toward earth in the end is one of the most distressing scenes.
Cuaron and crew have designed a visual masterpiece, with symbolic scenes that represent rebirth. There's a claustrophobic feel and realism to the scenes. When every second counts, every gasp and grasp, every jerk and hit could mean a chance for life or death. The 3-D is fully utilized, from sprays of flying debris to specks of floating tears or fires. The sound design goes for maximum impact, alternating between piercingly earthshaking and eerily quiet.
In the last several years, there have been films that clearly merit technical accolades, visually or acoustically - "Avatar," "Inception," "Life of Pi." "Gravity" falls in this category.
A singular survival tale in space, “Gravity” is an experience that marvels and mesmerizes. It's probably the closest you'll ever be to being in space in this lifetime.