Language : English | Running Time : 91 Minutes | Director : Alfonso Cuarón
Whenever we’ve started to feel the least bit disillusioned with the movies, there has been that one movie which time and again reinstates why we go to the movies. In an era where TV shows are becoming the staple diet of a generation and going to the movies is becoming a little less attractive, we badly needed a movie which would wake people up from their slumber and tell them “Dude, it’s time for the movies.” Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity is one such movie. It isn’t a movie that breaks barriers of film-making but it reinvents the way a movie can be presented in mainstream cinema.
Matt Kowalski(George Clooney) is the mission commander of Explorer and Dr.Ryan Stone(Sandra Bullock) is the mission specialist. They are in space with a crew of two to service the Hubble Space Telescope. We learn from Mission Control in Houston (voiced by Eddie Harris) that the Russians have tried destroying their now defunct satellite and this has caused a chain reaction of debris in space. They have to abort their mission. This is the information we have in the first 15 minutes of the movie. 13 and a half of which is one continuous shot. It is in this one continuous shot that you realise that gravity is not going to be an ordinary movie watching experience. As the actors move away from the camera, you see that the sounds drifting away too, the transmission becomes less clear and it is small things like these that draw you closer to the movie. These little things that are inconsequential to what makes the movie, are essential to give us an experience that we are also somewhere in the movie; we are also taking part in the scene. We can’t ask for a better movie going experience than to feel that we are part of the movie.
When it comes to sci-fi movies, especially the ones in space, we assume that we have already seen everything we wanted to see. The script written by Alfonso Cuarón,with his son Jonás Cuarón, should be one that not only avoids the trappings of the older movies depicted in space and here we have one which fills you with the same awe we felt while watching 2001 : A Space Odyssey. I don’t mean to say that Gravity is as good as 2001 is but the way it redefines space and film-making, Gravity is nothing short of 2001. Life in Space is impossible is one of the lines in the black screen that forms the opening of Gravity. Alfonso Cuarón ends up defying the statement throughout the film. In a way, Gravity is a movie about defying the impossible. In a scene where all hope is lost and survival seems impossible, Ryan Stone uses a fire extinguisher for thrust. Sounds impossible but it is plausible and Gravity has many such moments where it makes you feel the dread that everything’s lost by posing an impossible situation and then goes about proving that there’s nothing impossible once we set our mind to do something. It is a bit strong and circumstantial but it is how Alfonso Cuarón manages to craft this nifty movie which makes Gravity the wonderful movie that it is.
Gravity has a simple narrative structure in place and there only two people whose faces we get to see and the voice of a couple more to tell us the story. We don’t have any grossly made up octopuses or extra-terrestrial beings to side track us. In 91 minutes, Alfonso Cuarón deals with a tale of survival while in orbit, when there is no one to rely upon but yourself. Largely, the science employed is satisfying but in a movie you can’t expect everything to be perfect and we have some goof ups that would make physicists or even amateur science enthusiasts roll their eyes in disbelief but we won’t get down to it because we don’t need such distractions. When the laws of physics get violated, the movie isn’t becoming unrealistic to the point of incoherence. Such latitude is necessary to make movies work and Alfonso Cuarón establishes a fine ground, a tether connecting things pretty interestingly. There are a few things that the plot could have done away with; one is the mention of a back-story that involves Ryan’s child. Others are minor clichés that bog the script down but otherwise, it gets everything right, the terrifying state of affairs as debris comes flying out of nowhere, engines don’t fire up and fuel lines become empty or when voices break down as all communication is severed.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are effective as Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski. Apparently Robert Downey Jr, was in talks to be cast as Matt Kowalski and I am sure that it would have been an incredible casting attempt as this is a role that would suit the smooth talking Robert Downey Jr. to a T. George Clooney brings an element of fun to the character and you can’t help liking him. We know nothing about Matt Kowalski’s life but you wish that he survives in space. The fun-loving Matt Kowalski is the positive character, the one who is street smart, affable and a sense of calm during a crisis. He is a man capable of appreciating the rising of the sun over the Ganges and makes you wish you were seeing that sunrise with him. He is the kind of man you would love to have for a friend, someone you’d love travelling with. Ryan Stone on the other hand is not used to being rushed and she takes her time finding her way. She is panicky, depressed and very much in need of a reason to live. Sandra Bullock is one of the gutsiest A-list actors around in the characters she chooses to play and Ryan Stone is one of her best roles to date. She makes us root for Ryan Stone, pity her for problems and also shout at her when she becomes too depressed and is in the point of giving up. Eddie Harris’ voice is a reassuring presence as we settle down to be enthralled by what Alfonso Cuarón’s team has to offer us.
It takes time for us to get used to the constant jabbering of the characters. They talk to themselves quite a lot. The dialogues are not really great but they are really necessary for a reason. The reason being – to depict the silence in space and to keep the terror at bay. Steve Price‘s astonishing score which is haunting and moving with orchestral arrangements in ambient music makes for some excellent addition to the audience immersive nature of Gravity.
Gravity is the movie that’s best made us of 3-D. As nothing here is in rest and no object is on a plane surface, the effect that 3-D brings to the movie is pioneering and the extra dimension gives Gravity that much-needed effect of disbelief and awe. The 3-D draws you in and as the actors move around in space, you are drawn towards them. You join them on their space walking journey. Emmanuel Lubezki might just be the best cinematographer at work currently, equal or just a teeny little percent better than Roger Deakins at making things look gorgeous on-screen. Capturing the infinite with unfathomable angles and giving us images that have hitherto had no right to belong on-screen, Emmanuel Lubezki produces a master class in film cinematography.
Gravity finishes off in style. It is a scene which shows us how insignificant and small we are in the gigantic cosmos but are giants in turf we are familiar with. It is a movie which redefines the rules of cinema and defies that anything could be impossible for man. Gravity is a movie with heart, ambition, intelligence and affecting. A humanist film, Gravity’s beliefs can be ridiculous without the elements it possesses but they are intricate and give us a sense of longing. Alfonso Cuarón shows again that he is one of the best living directors out there and his wizardry is one of genius. Gravity is the movie of the year. I can’t see any other movie being able to induce such awe and longing this year.