Being shipwrecked in space is every astronaut’s nightmare, and watching Gravity on an IMAX screen gives one as close a sense of being adrift in space as any of us are likely to experience without leaving the ground.

Four and a half years in the making, Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón’s new film Gravity (2013), stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as Space Shuttle astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski on a routine mission to make repairs to satellite equipment from outside the shuttle, when a chain reaction of events quickly escalates into a worst-case scenario.

This terrifyingly suspenseful thriller mixes the authentic procedural disaster drama of Apollo 13 (1995), with the horror of one woman’s survival while stranded in space fighting against insurmountable odds as Ripley did in Alien (1979). 

This, however, is not a science fiction film, rather as we see familiar landmarks on the surface of the earth passing below, the film looks and sounds very much like the space exploration documentaries seen on IMAX screens like Blue Planet (1990) and Space Station (2002), making it feel like the events are actually happening right now 372 miles above the earth.

The film is shown completely from the astronaut’s weightless viewpoint. There are no cuts to Houston control rooms or family members anxiously waiting on the ground or any news reports being broadcast on TV sets. There’s virtually no connection with Earth, giving a claustrophobic feeling and total immersion into the free floating fear and vulnerability experienced by the astronauts.

The authentic look of the film, down to the smallest details, makes it difficult not to believe that what we are seeing is absolutely real or could be real. Realistic space disaster films with astronauts in jeopardy are not new, but Alfonso Cuarón, who also directed Y Tu Mamá También (2001) and Children of Men (2006), has created a whole new visual vocabulary that helps to make the genre so much more tangible and immediate.

The absolute silence of space makes the threat of an approaching debris field and inevitable devastation, so much more unnerving, as we never know who or what will get hit or what the cascading consequences will be. Getting hit by even the smallest piece of shrapnel traveling at the speed of a bullet could be fatal in space where one’s survival depends entirely on an intact functioning space suit.

While Sci-fi and Star Trek fans will certainly love the technical aspects of this brilliantly created zero G space adventure, Sandra Bullock’s emotionally captivating performance as a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, is the central focus of Gravity, making it accessible to a much broader audience.

The astronauts are completely helpless while they watch as flying debris orbiting the earth obliterates and tears through their ship and suits. As more satellites are destroyed and communication is eliminated, the surviving astronauts must rely on their own resources and draw on every ounce of courage to come up with a plan that will get them back to earth in one piece.

By the end of the film you will be as exhausted as the people that are experiencing this extraordinary and harrowing tale. Gravity is one hell of an exhilarating ride you won’t soon forget.



Michele Harvey said...

What a descriptively, detailed film review. I plan on seeing "Gravity in 3D" tomorrow. After reading your post, I can hardly wait!

Natasha Younge said...

I have to admit that before reading your review, I was not much interested in watching Gravity. The previews currently airing might not be presenting the film as you've described it here, which way sounds much more interesting!

JP said...

Thank you Natasha. I hope you enjoy the film as much as I did.

alemap said...

I've seen a lot of press about this film and at first I had decided I was not interested in watching this film despite my undying love for George Clooney and my affection for Sandra Bullock. I can't even IMAGINE the fear and terror that one would feel in this zero-gravity predicament and for that I don't care to subject myself to that kind of ride. However…..after reading your article and seeing interviews with Bullock and hearing more positive comments about how the movie can literally change you into thinking about one's own life and adventures, I'm tempted. Thank you for making me think twice!