Joining the ranks of auteurs like James Cameron who had to wait for the real world to catch up with their Vision, Gravity is director Alfonso Cuaron’s tale of survival under the most extreme circumstances. Following a catastrophic chain reaction (a genuine threat that really could bring life as some of us know it to a grinding halt) Sandra Bullock’s mission newbie Dr Ryan Stone and George Clooney’s insouciant old hand Matt Kowalski are stranded with no ship and a ticking clock until a cloud of deadly shrapnel engulfs them.
It’s fair to say that no film could live up to the level of festival hype that Gravity attracted. It’s also fair to say that the set up, the effects, the back stories - could be described as irrelevant.
That’s not to say that the effects - from the weightlessness to the claustrophobic confines of Stone’s suit as she spins uncontrollably into the agoraphobia inducing emptiness of space - aren’t flawless. There’s also an admirable (not to mention unsettling) attention to the science of space. And Sandra Bullock’s heart-racing performance is indeed an Oscar worthy tour de force that provides the perfect foil to Clooney’s laconic space cowboy.
Some will be thrilled by its stomach-clenching peril, while others will fall for it’s pensively philosophical take on the destructive yet indomitable nature of our species. Me? I’m wavering somewhere in between, struck by the spectacle, provoked by the metaphor and yet… And yet somehow not quite as carried away by the sum of the whole.
That said, it’s still a visually and metaphorically beautiful movie that works because the extra-terrestrial backdrop, while perfectly rendered, is in the end a canvas for Cuaron to paint a ledger of humankind in all its ingenuity, destructiveness and stubborness.