Sunday, October 06, 2013

Gravity (2013 film)

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron and written by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron, Gravity is the story of two astronauts struggling to survive in outer space after a satellite debris crashed their space shuttle. The film is an exploration into the world of outer space where two astronauts deal with survival as they do whatever it takes to return to Earth. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Gravity is an absolutely tremendous film from Alfonso Cuaron.

What happens to two astronauts as they’re stranded in outer space after a satellite debris has crashed their space shuttle leaving the two to survive and reach for whatever space craft there is left? That’s pretty much a summary of the film as it is about these two astronauts floating and drifting around in outer space as one of them in Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is a veteran astronaut on his last mission as he has to guide Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) to a space station as she has to cling on to him in order to survive. Yet, Dr. Stone is someone that is carrying a lot of emotional baggage and anxiety as she’s on her first space mission where she has to do a lot of the work while carrying little oxygen that she has. Even as she and Kowalski have to through many obstacles as the satellite debris orbits around the earth every 90 minutes in their path.

The screenplay by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron does have a traditional three-act structure yet its plotting and approach to suspense is very different as it is about survival where a lot of things have to happen. Especially as Dr. Stone has to be the one to get inside the International Space Station with a couple of Soyuz space capsules to get one of them used so they can reach the Chinese Shenzhou space capsule that will get them home. Of course, it’s not just the satellite debris that becomes a problem but the fact that some of the equipment inside the space station and the capsules are either out of date or have parts that aren’t working. It just adds to the stakes that Dr. Stone and Kowalski have to deal with as the former is wracked with fear and frustration where the latter has to tell her to stay calm and do whatever to survive and go back home.

The direction of Alfonso Cuaron is definitely out of this world in not just the way the presents the film as it’s set entirely in outer space. It’s also a film where what happens when two people are in outer space where something goes drastically wrong and they’re in absolute danger that is a matter of life and death. Much of the film is set in outer space where there is a sense of unknown and it’s a world that is very different. Everyone is floating and has to wear space suits or else they die. There is no walking for much of the film as the characters are often floating around or sometimes spin-drift as they have no idea what to do or to hold on to. That element of suspense is very gripping and also very dangerous in the idea that something like this could actually happen.

Many of the technical elements that Cuaron puts in has him making a lot of shots set with many long takes including this very intense sequence that is very long where the satellite debris has crashed with Dr. Stone attached to an arm as she suddenly have to take off her belt where she suddenly drifts in a circle. It’s shot largely in one entire take where it goes from Dr. Stone spinning in space where the camera moves closer to her as it is shown from her perspective and inside the spacesuit as she’s struggling to breath whatever oxygen she has left and having to hear Kowalski’s voice who is trying to get her back. It’s among the many moments in the film where it is about that sense of danger and need to survive. Some of the shots set inside the space station and capsules are quite intimate yet the characters are either floating around or sitting on a chair on a seatbelt tied on them.

The direction of Cuaron also plays into the emotion of the characters where both Dr. Stone and Kowalski have to talk to each other as they’re the only survivors of this horrific incident that left their crew dead. Yet, there is also that sense of isolation where Dr. Stone has to be the one to go inside the space station and capsules as she’s left alone dealing with the chaos as well as the emotional baggage that she’s carrying. Cuaron’s camera is always on her as it’s mostly her story as she is on her first space mission and has to do things to survive no matter how inexperienced she is. Overall, Cuaron creates a thrilling yet exhilarating film about survival in outer space.

Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, with additional work from Michael Seresin, does incredible work with the look of the film in terms of its lighting and imagery as he creates amazing lighting schemes for many of the exteriors set in space to the use of low-key lights for the scenes inside the space station and capsules as Lubezki‘s work is an absolute highlight of the film. Editors Alfonso Cuaron and Mark Sanger do brilliant work with the editing by creating cuts that capture the element of suspense while using very little cutting to play out every action that occurs to get the sense of danger that goes on in space. Production designer Andy Nicholson, with set decorator Rosie Goodwin and supervising art director Mark Scruton, do fantastic work with look of the space shuttle as well as the space station and capsules in its interior scenes.

Costume designer Jany Temime does excellent work with the look of the astronaut and cosmonaut space suits that Dr. Stone would wear in her journey. Visual effects supervisors Chris Watts and Timothy Webber do phenomenal work with the visual effects in not just the way outer space looks outside of earth but also in the look of the debris as it‘s another technical highlight of the film. Sound designer Glenn Freemantle is amazing for the atmosphere he creates in the way satellite debris sound as well as the air of silence that occurs in space where it‘s a world of the unknown. The film’s music by Steven Price is superb for its chilling yet intense music that ranges from calm, ambient pieces to thrilling, orchestral-based suspenseful cuts to play out the action while music supervisor Alejandro de la Llosa uses an array of music that is played in the background such as a country song that Kowalski likes to hear.

The casting by Richard Hicks and David Rubin is great as it features a lot of voice actors playing the role of the other astronauts and those in mission control with the most famous being Ed Harris as the NASA mission control director. The performances of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are outstanding in the way they play to the sense of danger they deal with as well as their struggle to survive. While Clooney gets to bring a bit of humor in his role as Kowalski, he adds that grounding that his character needed in order to ensure that Dr. Stone would not panic. Bullock is in top form as Dr. Ryan Stone where she plays into that sense of fear and anxiety of what she’s facing as well as being someone that has to succeed despite her inexperience as Bullock brings a lot of emotional weight to her performance.

Gravity is a truly magnificent film from Alfonso Cuaron. Thanks to the remarkable performances of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as well as its phenomenal technical work from its crew including cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. It’s a film that is unlike anything that is out there as well as a gripping suspense film set in space that bends all sorts of genres as well as what to expect in the world of science fiction. In the end, Gravity is a triumphant achievement from Alfonso Cuaron.

Alfonso Cuaron Films: Solo Con Tu Pareja - A Little Princess - Great Expectations (1998 film) - Y Tu Mama Tambien - Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban - Children of Men - Roma (2018 film)

Related: Aningaaq - The Auteurs #11: Alfonso Cuaron

© thevoid99 2013


Anonymous said...

I really can't believe how amazing this film was...I'm still coming down from the high. Great review, as always!

ruth said...

Fantastic review Steven and we're on the same page about this film, yay! You're spot on about the performances, totally agree that Bullock brings a lot of emotional weight to her performance. I've always liked her as an actress, and I think her performance here proves that she's a capable performer.

A magnificent film to be sure, Cuaron managed to surpass even Children of Men which was a phenomenal film in its own right.

Courtney Small said...

Great review, Steven. There seems to be a lot of discussion about whether or not this film will hold up in ten years. Frankly, I could careless about stuff like that. The fact of the matter is what Cuaron achieves with this film, at this point in time, is simply astounding.

thevoid99 said...

@Fisti-Right now, it's my favorite film of the year so far. I don't know what will top this.

@ruth-I've always been mixed about Sandra Bullock as I was one of those that loathed The Blind Side yet she is fucking great in this and definitely deserving of accolades.

@Courtney-I could care less if it holds up ten years from now as I think it's a great movie and what Cuaron did is just tremendous. He just raised the bar of what can be done with visual effects and such.

Alex Withrow said...

Glad you liked this one. Bullock impressed the hell out of me, and Chivo... jesus christ, the man is a god.

thevoid99 said...

@Alex Withrow-I'm going to say this once.

If Chivo does not win the Oscar for Best Cinematography. I'm going Kanye on the Oscars!!!

Myerla said...

'out of this world'

If I got a penny for each time some used this phrase I'd be a rich man. Even I used it.

For me, Gravity is the only movie in which the 3D worked perfectly. It enhances the experience. Gravity is a great film, but its impact will not work quite as well on a smaller screen.

thevoid99 said...

@Mylera-I don't think the film should be seen on a small screen as I think it does need to be experienced though I'm still iffy about 3D.