4 StarsDr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is sent adrift into space when debris from a nearby orbiting satellite causes catastrophic damage to her shuttle. Gravity is the story of Dr. Stone’s attempts to return to Earth in a broken vessel while running out of oxygen. The fear of isolation is a universal horror, rooted deep within our collective conscious. Past films like Cast Away, I Am Legend, and the new Robert Redford movie All is Lost have examined this theme in various settings to varying degrees of success. None that have come before can match the unyielding intensity and artistic splendor of Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity. This is the mainstream masterpiece that should propel the visionary filmmaker, into the ranks of greatest directors’ working today.
Top lined by a captivating and career-best performance from the newly ripped Sandra Bullock, sporting a short haircut that gives her a Kris Jenner look. She is the emotional centerpiece that connects and hooks us into this story of literal and figurative detachment. The physicality of the film and requirements of the role should rightfully garner Bullock her second OSCAR nomination, if not the award itself. This is the strongest bit of acting, male or female, I’ve seen all year. Which all but make up for the cowboy, cocksure antics of the increasingly annoying Clooney character. A longtime astronaut more impressed with himself than the cosmos.
In a sly homage to Ron Howard’s equally gripping space odyssey Apollo 13, Ed Harris supplies the voice of NASA mission control in Houston, TX. It’s a subtle hint that this is another, yet vastly different tale of abandonment and the fear of death millions of miles away from loved ones. Gravity rivals the power and visual splendor of anything in 2001, which has always played like an exercise in self-indulgence by Kubrick.
Clocking in at a taunt 91 minutes, the film is lean yet rich and fulfilling. The camera movements and extended takes are a marvel, that will surely be pawned over by film students for years to come. Is the ending a letdown? Not in the sense of the frogs raining from the sky moment in Magnolia, or God’s bedroom in 2001, judge for yourself. Could it have ended any other way? Did it and perhaps we the audience have fallen for a narrative trick used by Cuarón in the third act? Questions like these should have you debating and analyzing long after the film ends. That’s good cinema, and Gravity is one of 2013’s best films.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris