On a mission to work on satellite dishes in space, newly recruited medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is working alongside veteran space officer Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). At first everything is under control until some debris from another satellite crashes into the space Ryan and Kowalski are working on. Kowalski’s estimates this impact to continue occurring, rendering their survival in space to be problematic. The ensuing plot leaves their struggle for survival as the main focus of the film.
An instinctual fight for survival is positioned well against any mental hang-ups within one’s mind, specifically Ryan. Having revealed a tragic backstory before the impact occurs, her own hero’s journey firstly requires the desire and then the fight to survive.
Bullock gives a truly restrained performance as Ryan Stone, never over-exerting the potential for heightened emotions. Much of her performance focuses on the control (and lack thereof) of breath, heart rate and keeping calm. Clooney is much more calm and collected, oozing the usual charisma but isn’t given the emotional range to explore like Bullock.
Central to the effectiveness of the storytelling are several key elements, most effectively sound design. Kowalski points to the silence and solace of space, which is then quickly juxtaposed with an anxiety once the debris hits the two officers. Bullock’s aforementioned breathing makes a pivotal impact to this anxiety, being the only real sound effect, as the impact of collisions occur silently. Steven Price’s score gives intensely dramatic and effective weight to the story, though it does sound a tad too exaggerated towards the conclusion.
There is something to be said about gender roles in Gravity as well. Though clearly intelligent and capable, Ryan is placed in a position of inexperience and slight ignorance while the Kowalski is accomplished and knowledgeable at the job. An ethnic third character is literally wiped away before we even have a chance to see his full face intact. Though Gravity‘s central focus is on Ryan’s fight for survival, it is still rather typical that it is the female who is the inexperienced one, having to overcome yet another hurdle to survive. This is not necessarily a criticism of the film, nor of its filmmakers, but simply an observation.
Director/co-writer/co-producer/co-editor Alfonso Cuaron’s latest sci-fi film is a truly gripping and suspenseful film with many heart-pulsing sequences to keep you on the edge of your seats. The 3D technology is used really well here too, emphasising the aesthetics of space and adding to the turbulent action scenes, as well as some more poignant scenes. Focusing on themes such as control, resurrection, restraint and the fight for survival, Gravity is a good way to spend 90 minutes in the cinema.
Gravity is in Australian cinemas from 3 October through Warner Bros.