In a year that will be remembered for being one of less renown with regard to science-fiction, along comes something as close to science-fact as you’re likely to get for some time. Alfonso Cuaron’s ‘Gravity’ appeared on the scene like a godsend. At least, that is, if you’re a space geek or studio executive. Those of us in the middle were well served too, with not only sumptuous visuals, but a mighty dollop of genuine acting chops. The story, albeit sometimes sickly sweet and emotionally corrosive, will have touched many and empowered at least fifty percent of the planet that Bullock and Clooney were often witnessed floating helplessly above.
For despite hurling this drama into orbit for its telling, it would have been as comfortable practically anywhere you chose to set it, because whilst it is admittedly and unequivocally ‘science-y’ on its lavishly gloss surface, beating at its heart is a tale of determination, loss, endeavour and lots of other stuff usually reserved for human experiences beneath the ozone layer.
The tale of two astronauts, one happiest when space-walking and one decidedly reticent to even consider such a notion introduces the viewer firmly to the very smallest steps of humanity into a world completely alien to their own. When things take a turn for the ‘ABORT’ whistle to be blown by those safely ensconced on the ground, this seemingly routine and pedestrian visit to the Hubble Telescope to carry out repairs rapidly evolves from beautifully mundane to beautifully terrifying.
Zipping past you and making no excuse for it in ninety short minutes, you would be right to consider whether this even has the time to engage or develop characters that an audience would accept. Thankfully, most of the screen time is ably handed over to Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone, and it is really her journey, both physical and emotional, that we are treated to here.
Notwithstanding, Clooney, mostly charm with a touch of smarm, plays space veteran Matt Kowalski, an all calm, reassured, cock-sure American hero. More interested in breaking space-walk records than actually doing any work, Kowalski has a genuinely good soul, which is just as well, as he needs to come to the aid of an initially helpless Stone at times.
In all, Gravity is a very impressive piece of work from Cuaron, employing some ground-breaking special effects that will often delightfully befuddle the viewer. Seen, without doubt, best in 3D (and you can’t say that too often) it is a treat both for the senses and the soul. With great performances from its main players, it is over all too quickly and make no mistake that it leaves the viewer wanting more, even if it is only to see what happened to those characters that we were only given the smallest time to get to know and appreciate. Accusations of cheesy dialogue and general toe-curling cringiness might be levelled at the script on occasion, but despite this, which is more than bearable and the inconsistencies (only a couple, mind you) in the science for the purposes of entertainment, Gravity ended up being a very satisfying watch. Critic’s circles have already highlighted this superior drama and it’s even getting a potential nod or two from Oscar. Well deserved it is too.