Alfonso Cuaron, the director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men, makes his triumphant return to the director’s chair with Gravity, a cinematic triumph that grabs hold of its audience and refuses to relinquish its grip. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney stun in their demanding roles, and Cuaron’s strong script delivers on all counts as well. And to top it off, the film’s use of 3D proves to be effective and even beneficial to the finished product, a feat that many seek to accomplish but few actually achieve.
Rookie astronaut Ryan Stone(Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski(Clooney) are acquaintances assigned to the same space shuttle. When debris from a satellite obliterates the shuttle and most of the crew, Stone and Kowalski must rely on their training and each other to survive. Can they survive, or will space claim their lives?
Bullock and Clooney both prove their competence here, bringing their characters to life in a brilliant and real way. Their chemistry is odd, because it’s not romantic. Instead, it’s sympathetic and caring, but doesn’t quite burst into a flame. But their relationship also adds an incredible power to the film, adding a level of risk and emotional investment that would be absent if Cuaron did not take the time to strengthen and develop that bond.
The film takes plenty of time to marvel at its own visual splendor, but it also wants viewers to care about its charismatic leads. The character development comes in the film’s scarce but smart dialogue, forcing audiences to tune in to the small talk to learn about the characters. Cuaron strategically develops his characters(especially Bullock’s) through small, sweet moments that eventually pack quite a punch, a method that stands as a testament to his skill as a director and storyteller.
The film’s finest moments will likely leave viewers as breathless as a grunting Sandra Bullock, and it’s these moments alone that make this movie worth the price of admission. But the explosions and frantic scrambling would mean nothing if Cuaron hadn’t built up the characters, who, if you hadn’t guessed by now, are two of the best characters in modern film.
If there’s anything to complain about(and trust me, I’m struggling to find something), it’s that a bit more Clooney is needed. His character already rocks, but I wanted to know a bit more about him beyond his expertise as an astronaut. It really is a minor complaint, because Cuaron excels at making these characters real and relatable.
Stupid quibbles aside, Cuaron has brought us another surefire winner, and it wouldn’t be a long shot to label it as one of the year’s finest films.
4.5 out of 5 stars