Oscar Bait Season: Gravity (2013) – Review
Reviewed by Jordan Goodier
Here’s one that’s been getting a lot of attention over the last few months. It’s been picking up awards and nominations for them left, right and centre. With the film managing to grab a few Golden Globe nominations, the film is also tipped for Academy Award success. Gravity is the new Space Drama film directed and co-written (with his son Jonas Cuaron) by Alfonso Cuaron. I’d been looking forward to this one for a long time, ever since the first teaser trailer was released back in May. Alfonso’s last film “Children of Men” contained several of the most fantastic “long shot” sequences of all time, and it helped that the film was damn good too. When I heard that Gravity was going to be shot in a similar way, heaping on the spectacle of space in incredible sequences that were shot in a single take, well – I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the film.
The film opens with Doctor Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first space mission, and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a veteran astronaut on his last mission, as they perform some routine maintenance. They are warned by mission control that a huge amount of space debris is heading their way, but should pass by them as it is off their trajectory; except this turns out to be wrong and all hell breaks loose. What follows is a visually stunning and pretty tense thrill ride as Stone and Kowalski fight to get back to Earth. Visual metaphors about evolution and life aside, it really is that simple. This film is mostly spectacle and about the two characters who are along for the ride.
The film has been praised for its scientific accuracy and since I know very little on the subject, apart from the basics, I’ll take their word for it. The directing and cinematography on this film, as I had hoped, are fantastic and a little awe-inspiring. The film opens with a long take sequence that lasts about nine minutes; it starts with a wonderful view of Earth, then follows Stone and Kowalski as they go about their work, then quickly descends into chaos in a seriously stunning sequence that sends the astronauts space shuttle spinning out of control and Dr. Ryan Stone is flung off into space. The rest of the film looks spectacular as well and it really makes you wish that there was more footage floating around out there of what our planet looks like from space, because it looks gorgeous. The rest of the film doesn’t quite match up to the beginning sequence in terms of spectacle, though there are a couple more scrapes that Kowalski and Stone get into that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Clooney has less screen time than his co-star and his character is so likable and charismatic that you can’t help but wish he was in the film a bit more. Kowalski gives Stone the inspiration she needs to live life to the full again, after it’s discovered that Stone lost her daughter and has since then sort of given up. Clooney portrays Kowalski brilliantly as the almost “happy go lucky” astronaut veteran and is responsible for some of the more heart-warming moments of the film. Sandra Bullock gives a decent performance, but I didn’t see anything particularly special about it. There were no scenes that struck me as incredible character acting for her, she simply was. Her character was well written and she did the job, but there’s nothing to rave about with her performance, so I’m slightly at a loss as to why she’s getting lots of award buzz for her performance. Perhaps it’s just because she’s Sandra Bullock?
Gravity has a fairly short run time, a nicely balanced ninety minutes, which is filled to the brim with incredible visuals and exciting, intense, sequences; the performances are decent though perhaps not quite as good as many reviewers are making out and the writing is fairly solid too. For visual spectacle, this is the most impressive film that you’ll see this year; apart from perhaps The Hobbit sequel, otherwise, it’s a pretty average affair.