Director Alfonso Cuarón hasn’t made a film since Children of Men in 2006, which for our money was one of the best science fiction films of the generation. Set in the near-future, the film felt palpably real thanks in part to a number of continuous and technically complex shots.
In Gravity, Cuarón does this one better.
The movie opens with his camera in Earth’s orbit, the distant sound of radio chatter grows as a space shuttle drifts into shot and we find astronauts George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in the middle of upgrading the Hubble Space Telescope. The shot remains unbroken for the next 14 minutes as the crew is suddenly endangered by a field of high-speed space debris heading their way.
The camera glides around the ship and into Bullock’s helmet while the carefully unobtrusive use of 3D reinforcing the reality of the film despite the fact that almost all of the sequence was created in a computer. That’s perhaps the most remarkable feat of this film: everything on screen seems tangible, which is rarely the case with CGI.
The music by Steven Price is propulsive and occasionally nerve-shredding, emphasising the film’s decision to play with the factually-accurate silence. In other words, we don’t hear the sound of explosions miraculously rippling through the vacuum of outer space.
The rest of the film plays out like a survival thrill ride, as the two leads desperately try to find their way to the International Space Station and its last remaining escape pod. And a thrill ride is exactly what it feels like, in the best way possible. Working from a script co- written with his son Jonas, Cuarón creates a back-story for Bullock’s character that sees her still coping with the recent loss of her only child. Parallels are drawn between her personal grief and her immediate fight to survive but the dialogue expressing this feels a little forced.
But let’s not get down on this film just because of one niggling complaint. Gravity has stayed at #1 in the US box-office, a remarkable achievement for a film that is both good and based on an original idea. Bullock is certainly going to receive Oscar attention for her strong performance as the emotional anchor of a massive action film.
This is the most pure excitement you’re likely to feel in a cinema this year. It’s the most hyped film of the season and yet it has managed to meet expectations on every level.
Gravity is in cinemas from 8 November