Alfonso Cuarón‘s new film, Gravity, is stunning. Pure and simple. These words can describe the plot as well. There’s nothing complex about some people working out of the space Shuttle Explorer when they hit the debris field of a an exploded satellite. This happens within the first few minutes and for the rest of the hour and a half film it’s left for the two survivors, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) to try and get home. That’s it. But in the hands of a master of suspense like Cuarón, you don’t need any more.
The filmmaking gets us as close to being in space as we can get on this planet. Honestly, I have no idea how he filmed half the scenes he did, I can only assume it’s a seamless mix of CG and greenscreen and a flying rig that puts David Copperfield to shame. And if Bullock or Clooney wanted to take a run at “Ashes to Ashes” to go along with Chris Hadfield‘s “Space Oddity” I’m not sure many would be able to spot the difference between the reality and the movie magic.
The other aspect of the filmmaking, one which is so often left out of reviews, is sound and here again, the team responsible deserves a full round of applause all on their own. Technically, some might question a couple of displays of phenomenal physics which come together for story sake, but generally, the filmmaking is spot on. In the 70s, the tagline for Superman was “you’ll believe a man can fly.” Here, you’ll believe a woman can float.
That all said, what makes this film work, really, is Bullock herself. That she carries the film is not in question. Clooney is there and does what Clooney does and sure, he does it well, but Bullock shows both amazing strength and fear and vulnerability and determination… in short, she’s a human being in an extraordinary circumstance and she does what she must in order to try and survive. This isn’t some heroic action film or some space melodrama. Nope, it’s just real people doing what they do when they need to. As far as awards go, I’d say this is an opening salvo across the bow of the Academy Awards. I know there’s more good stuff coming and we’ve seen some good performances already, but I think we can definitely say, with Gravity, the season of award ready films is upon us.