From the very moment we posted the first trailer for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, we knew it was going to be a big deal. A thrilling space epic that set to redefine beautiful and chilling. That trailer vastly undersold what is possibly the best movie of 2013.
This review contains spoilers.
The plot of Gravity is pretty simple: a crew of astronauts in space are working on the Hubble space telescope, when a Russian satellite is destroyed, splaying debris in a dangerous orbit around the Earth, tearing apart telescopes, space stations, shuttles and other satellites to pieces.
Our crew is caught in the hail of bullet-speed debris, killing the majority of the crew and destroying their shuttle. Astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are the sole survivors of the incident. Contact with Mission Control (voiced by Ed Harris) is quickly severed due to the incident, and the two space walkers are left floating free in the vacuum. I feel my chest tighten up again just writing this review. It really is harrowing for every moment.
Kowalski and Stone must then tow themselves around in zero gravity to other ships and stations orbiting the Earth. Clooney meets his unfortunate end after failing to grab hold of the station the two were aiming for, leaving him to float free into space until his untimely demise. Stone is left to fend for herself, a task made only more difficult by virtue of the fact that she’s a medical engineer, not an astronaut.
We won’t give the whole plot away, but you should know that you’ll see Dr Stone battle zero gravity woes, take on emergency Soyuz landing shuttles, put out space station-sized fires and hold her own against a rapidly depleting oxygen and fuel supply.
It’s a brilliant film, and you’ll be gripping your seat from start to finish. The plot holds you right until the very end, with the series of unfortunate events plaguing Dr Stone from the edge of space right down to her final, epic effort to save herself.
The film runs for a tight 90-minutes, which is perfect. No over-wrought plot points need to be endured, no wanky sub-plots and not a second of screen time wasted. It’s perfect. When was the last time you went to a movie that ran for an hour and a half? These days we’re all subjected to two-hour epics.
The most impressive thing about this film, however, is the spectacle of it all. The visual effects team have done a mind-blowing job creating the vacuum of space for the characters to float around in. Even better than just floating about, however, is how the camera moves to re-orient the viewer every few scenes. Very early on in the film you’re concept of “the right way up” is thrown out the window, and you become immersed in space with Dr Stone and a terrifying field of debris. Close down the next Oscar awards for visual effects and just give it to Gravity right now.
There are plenty of people heaping praise on Cuaron’s new space-masterpiece, and rightly-so, but it’s not without fault. You’re never told what the astronauts were doing up there to the Hubble space telescope in the first place, you’re just left to guess. Depending on how pedantic you are, it might interfere with your viewing of the film because the audience doesn’t understand what Sandra Bullock’s character does or what her invention is for. She’s certainly not cut out to be an astronaut, so what does her invention do that meant she should be racing through the training to get up and install it?
Also, there isn’t nearly enough of Clooney’s rogue-ish astronaut character in the film for my liking. He exits pretty early in the piece.
Go see this movie, even just to marvel at how the hell they made it. You won’t be disappointed.