Alfonso Cuaron’s mind-blowing space drama GRAVITY is an astonishing cinematic achievement, reminding you of how cinema can still at times truly deliver the wow factor.
Wow. This is a good time for quality movies right now, as having watched Tom Hanks deliver a ‘Best Actor’ award-worthy performance in Paul Greengrass’ incredible drama Captain Phillips, I’ve now had the pleasure of seeing the one that I think will carry off the ‘Best Actress’ statuette – Sandra Bullock in Alfonso Cuaron’s magnificent new film GRAVITY.
What a role, what a portrayal and what a movie. Playing medical engineer Ryan Stone on her first mission into space, Bullock holds your attention from the very first frame to the last, with a brilliant display of vulnerability, intelligence, and courage. It’s a superb performance for which Bullock is now rightly the frontrunner in any award ceremonies on the horizon. Teamed with George Clooney (at his absolute charming best) as seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalski on his final mission should have been routine but of course, an accident to their spacecraft makes it very much otherwise. From what seems this almost cliched, textbook set up – rookie alongside old pro – director Cuaron fashions moment after moment of breathtaking shots of planet Earth (with his director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki), alongside edge-of-the-seat thrill sequences where it literally is life and death for Kowalski and Stone.
Ron Howard’s superb Apollo 13 also captured the wonder and danger of what astronauts do and it’s a nice nod to that film that Ed Harris pops up here as the solid, reassuring voice of Mission Control back at Houston. Like that movie, once the trouble has surfaced, it’s down to the ingenuity and resolve of the crew to survive and here, Bullock takes you a rollercoaster journey of quick-thinking, emotional fragility and the resilience that’s never less than gripping to watch. When you learn of Stone’s backstory and see that it’s not so much whether or not she’s going to die but whether she chooses to live or die, it’ll make your lip more than wobble.
But there’s also humour thanks to a taut and, at times, witty script by Cuaron and his son Jonas – “I hate space” quips Stone at one point – which allows you as an audience to take a breath, because, for most of its 90 minutes running time, you’re holding it. I’d very much admired Cuaron’s dystopian drama Children of Men, with its gritty vision of our future world but by melding science fiction with human drama, he really leaps to another level in film-making here with a stunningly crafted movie that I really can’t fault.
Having recently passed the $500 million mark in global sales, it’s a wonderful thing that this film has found an audience who appreciate serious story-telling, who relish watching film-makers and actors at the very top of their game and who also love “one hell of a ride.”