Gravity struggles to find meaning, but masterfully so

Gravity, the latest offering from Oscar-nominated director, Alfonso Cuaron, is a visually-masterful, dizzying spectacle that, despite its best efforts, runs a little short on story.

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Gravity stars Sandra Bullock as space rookie, Dr Ryan Stone alongside George Clooney as her experienced counterpart, Matt Kowalsky. During a routine maintenance visit  to an insignificant satellite, disaster strikes in the form of orbiting shrapnel. Their shuttle is destroyed, and the other crew members are killed. Kowalsky and Stone are left floating in space, completely alone.

Here is where we get into the main strength of Gravity: the portrayal of the glaring nothingness of space. The lack of the most basic of Earthly comforts: gravity itself. Bullock and Clooney are left to hang, literally, tethered awkwardly to those oversized rucksacks astronauts wear. Cuaron, through his use of digital wizardry, 360 camera angles and slanting views of the Earth, makes the audience feel as though they too have been marooned in the unending abyss of space.

What follows is a series of trials and tests for the inexperienced Stone, which makes for very tense viewing. Like the main character, the audience is interminably suspended. We are kept on edge as we wonder if she can somehow grasp onto that handle, if she will be able to find her way to a nearly satellite or if her oxygen will run out before that happens.

But all of this action and consequence exposes the film’s lack of a purpose. In many respects, it is the anti-Kubrick. Gravity‘s script is about as weightless as space itself. The film is about no more than the difficulties of being stranded in space, and the inner demons one has to face in order to survive. But don’t get me wrong, it does that extremely well.

Bullock’s character, and I call her that because I was at no point incited to be interested in her name, background or character, endures a series of terrific calamites that test her resolve and spirit. But she does not gain our sympathy. That is because her story seems altogether too unfortunate. There was a derisive ring of laughter in the theatre when she was confronted with one of her penultimate challenges, as it was perhaps just one too many.

All-in-all, Cuaron’s Gravity is a colossal achievement in terms of immediacy. It involves the audience in a way that has arguably never before been experienced. And yes, go to see it in 3D.

8/10.

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