Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, this drama about a medical engineer and an astronaut stranded in space is the 80 million dollar passion project of Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón.
There’s no doubt this movie is incredibly visually stunning. Cuarón essentially created the technology necessary to make it. A large portion of the film takes place in outer space, and it’s incredibly convincing. Cuarón’s stylistic long takes really lend themselves well to this film. A behind-the-scenes documentary would be absolutely fascinating. The film is gorgeous and it’s obvious a lot of effort was put into making it that way.
The script however, is not very good. Gravity is only an hour and a half long, and definitely stretches itself out in order to make it to that point. Littered with clichés, this survivalist tale meanders through a list of obstacles without any real motivation, the only goal being to force drama. For example, the incident which sets things in motion is a large amount of debris that collides with the astronauts shuttle; immediately after Clooney’s character (the suave professional, one mission from retirement) saves Bullock’s (the newcomer), he tells her to set her watch for 90 minutes. Why? Because in that time the debris will travel across the entire world and hit them again. Because the debris is moving at the accessible speed in order to calculate this and they clearly will still get hit if they move to a different place. These aren’t things that bother me too much, but they definitely took me out of the moment.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is simply not a good female character. In an interview with New York Magazine, Cuarón says that the choice to make the lead character a female was to “strip it from heroists”. My biggest fear walking into this movie was that it would be 90 minutes of Sandra Bullock screaming and acting unprofessional. That was largely fulfilled. Bullock’s character seems to not be able to act without the guidance of her male companion. Coupled with awkward romantic tension and it almost seems like a metaphor that women need men to survive. Not to mention the implausible (and by implausible I mean remarkably stupid) trauma we learn about her that is supposed to help us accomplish the difficult feat of feeling sympathy for someone fighting for their life.
I didn’t think Sandra Bullock’s performance was that great. She was far from the first choice for the part, and I think it showed. It was by no means bad, but I’d be genuinely surprised if she walked away with another Oscar. The entire basis of the performance was breathy and scared. There were plenty of awkward line deliveries and I often felt it lacked a certain amount of emotion. It may be the weak writing for her character but I don’t believe it’s the show-stealing performance that’s been hyped.
It may seem like I really hated this film. I didn’t. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit. Visually, it’s mind-blowing. If you’re interested in this film, see it in IMAX. I just wish they had spent a fraction of the amount of time they spent on the technology on the script. The movie seems to be an excuse to show off cool tricks Cuarón developed. That doesn’t mean that the movie is terrible though. Just that a lot of potential was wasted. 7/10.