On a mission in orbit, a team of specialists take a shuttle to repair a damaged satellite. It’s here where we meet the two main characters. Kowalski (George Clooney) is a charismatic veteran who delights in wisecracks, telling stories about Mardi Gras and exes, and listening to Hank Williams Jr. while staring at earth, while Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a doctor and team rookie, tries her hardest to keep her meals down in the taxing zero-G’s. Sounds pretty routine, but it isn’t long until disaster strikes. Debris from a broken satellite and everything in its path that was hit strikes the shuttle, breaking communications with mission control, and leaving both Stone and Kowalski drifting through space, trying their hardest to survive and make it safely back to the planet.
Of course, terror is not the only thing that makes Gravity work so well. It’s mainly with the storyline of our main character Ryan Stone. This is where the aforementioned intimacy comes into play. Much of the film is shot in Cuaron’s signature long takes (which he and co-editor Mark Sanger are smart to let linger), and the equal weightlessness of the camera movement works to help us see, and experience, the trauma of the character’s situations, and follows her on her quest to find the will to survive, and rebirth (one shot in the film visually referencing this). Much like helping us experience what she sees from her view in her helmet, it puts us right into her emotional state. When she feels scared, I felt scared. When she felt sorrowful, I felt sorrowful. It’s a strong and empathetic character, and one that grants Sandra Bullock a remarkable performance. With Gravity, Bullock is finally given a chance to put her talents fully on display with a role that requires great strength emotionally, physically, intellectually, and she handles them all incredibly well. Not once does she feel false, and not once does she hit a dull note. As far as I’m concerned, not only is it the best work of her career, it’ll probably go down as the best performance in any film of 2013. Of course, some well deserved attention ought to go to George Clooney, excellent in a role that, while it may feel like Clooney doing an impersonation of himself, still feels every bit as believable as Bullock’s character.
Only time will tell if Gravity will be considered among the greatest movies of all time, but from the road it’s on, it looks well on its way. Nowadays, movies may not always be of the best quality, or tell the best stories, but when films like this appear, it’s like a breath of fresh air. I have a feeling this is going to be a film that people are going to praise and remember for many years to come. If it hasn’t been made glaringly obvious by now, I will be genuinely shocked to see a movie this year that is better than this one.
***** / *****