Life is precious, but it has a terrible survival record. Life is also difficult. Be it attempting to survive on almost no resources in the vacuum of space or driving to work on a weekday morning in rural Ohio. It’s not the severity of the danger or the devastation of the circumstances that test the merits of humanity, it’s how those circumstances are dealt with. Alfonso Cuarón uses imagery that is both awe-inspiringly beautiful while simultaneously gut wrenching and horrifying to focus on the trial of a particular human being. This human has dealt with other, arguably more trying, emotional circumstances in her life, but that’s not what we’re going to watch. What we’re going to watch is a woman attempt to re-enter Earth with all the odds against her. We’re going to watch a woman be pitted against the cruelty and indifference of the celestial elements and come to grips with what it means to fight for survival.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first trip to space. While she is having a less than ideal time, she’s comforted by the nonchalant musings of veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) as he enjoys his final space walk before retiring. As they near the finish of the mission, their ship is destroyed by space debris, leaving the two stranded in space with limited means in which to travel. Realizing they must make a trek to the International Space Station in hopes of finding an escape pod. Kowalski, being the senior astronaut keeps a pretty level head throughout, while Stone must dig deep to find courage she never thought herself capable of. George Clooney puts in an ideal performance for his role, but it’s not about him. This movie is about Ryan Stone, particularly how she handles the situations that are presented before her as well as the events of her past.
Gravity is nothing short of gorgeous. If you find the movie boring, if you don’t like the acting, if you think the premise is far fetched (in my opinion it is none of these things), you have to at least admit to the fact that it is, perhaps, the most visually awe-inspiring space film ever made, providing a greater understanding of the vastness of space in comparison to a single astronaut. The images of space and the views of earth contrasted against the miniscule bodies of the actors involved easily gets the point across that they’re in a dangerous, but incredible surrounding. Watching two actors, Bullock in particular, attempt to survive against all odds is thrilling. Alfonso Cuarón keeps the premise on the edge of believability providing an inspiring look at bravery in the face of the most intimidating surroundings. The dialogue, which is crucial to the success of the film, is both emotionally charged and concise. We don’t get flash backs or long exposition on each of the characters history, we get to watch two people fight with everything they have to live. Arguably, Clooney plays the part a little too casually. Iit worked well. But what does it mean to live? That is one of the questions brought up, primarily through the use of breath taking visuals, that the director asks the audience. Sure, Ryan might survive the ordeal, but if she does, what difference would it make, ultimately, in her life? It’s much more difficult to live than it is to survive.
Alfonso Cuarón uses some of the best imagery I’ve ever seen in a film, some of which I have no desire to give away in case you haven’t seen the film. It’s not all just pretty pictures, he stages the scenes so we’re drawn completely into the emotional depth of his vision. Using the screen as his canvas, pictures are painted before our eyes displaying both the safety and seclusion as well as the danger and savageness of both space and life. Gravity is a wonderful film, using a near perfect mix of sound, visual and emotional stimulation to present something that is far more than a physical tale of survival. Space is the great unknown, it is where you look to gain perspective on just how small we are. In the same way, Cuarón attempts to give that perspective to his characters. He wants them to know that living and surviving are two entirely different things, one is a passive action, while the other is a brutal and unforgiving fight.