AT 372 MILES ABOVE THE EARTH
THERE IS NOTHING TO CARRY SOUND
NO AIR PRESSURE
LIFE IN SPACE IS IMPOSSIBLE
That is the silent intro to Alfonso Cuaron’s film, Gravity. There are no opening credits, just the awesome spectacle of the earth in the vastness of space. The camera slowly approaches a space shuttle with what appears to be an astronaut floating about untethered. In fact, he is untethered but also seated in a mini jet-propelled space chair.
“Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission,” says astronaut Matt Kowalski played by George Clooney. There is definitely some foreshadowing in this remark, but the comment is used to illustrate the calmness and enjoyment Kowalski is experiencing in his space walk (or rather space sit). He goes on to say, “Well, it reminds me of a story…” Several times we hear this exchange between Kowalski and the voice from Houston at Mission Control (Ed Harris), lightening the mood and at the same time adding to the viewer’s tension because of the impending doom that is sure to ensue.
Gravity is a story of triumph, of will, of loneliness and grief, and of learning to let go. Sandra Bullock portrays Dr. Ryan Stone, an astronaut on her first mission into space. We learn of her sadness and why she operates with such a detached, almost empty, purpose which shapes her entire character. She is not weak. She fights to survive. She does not let go. This is Bullock’s movie, the other actors are really just props. This is not to disparage their performances; whether on-screen or only voices, the other actors deliver excellent and believable work. But really Bullock, and space, are the true stars.
Cuaron creates a terrifyingly empty space, a blackness and void, only interrupted by the majesty of earth…and debris orbiting at 20,000 miles per hour. I think this is where the movie really shines, it does not provide sounds of explosion or collision, just an eerie silence. But not total silence – the orchestral soundtrack driving the action and emotion, making your heart pound and pulse race even before the nearing destruction arrives. As debris rips through structures, you can see it happen, large-scale destruction, but there isn’t an audible clue to said destruction. The action is also aided by the fluid and weightless camera work and sequences, giving the illusion of really being out in space.
Gravity is rated PG-13, but we took our 11- and 14-year old boys to see it. The action is definitely terrifying at times, but not in a horror movie type of scenario…just a good old fashioned edge-of-your-seat, heart-pounding, hold-your-breath, holy-crap-is-this-really-happening type of terrifying. It’s definitely worth seeing in theatres and even paying the surcharge for the 3D. This film is enhanced by the technology, not reduced to a gimmicky pop-out-of-the-screen rip-off.
On a scale of 5 stars, I give it a solid 4. I’ve changed my mind on grading system. An ‘A to F’ scale seems more flexible and therefore better, so that’s what I’m going to use. I give Gravity an A-.