I had absolutely no idea a film like this could be made. I didn’t know it was possible. If I ever had a cinematic fever dream it would look something like Gravity. No seriously, I just had fever a few days back (almost recovered thanks for asking) and it was like watching this part nightmare part dream in that condition, floating and drifting in my sleep. Alfonso Cuaron has put it on screen for me to watch it without having to shut my eyes. Yes, it’s a good thing; a great thing. Houston, this is awesome!
Gravity is more of an experience than a film. It doesn’t have a “movie plot”. It has better things to do. Most science fiction films set in space don’t actually involve the “space” of space. There are films like Avatar (2009), Star Wars and Star Trek which take us to other worlds. There are the Alien films which are monster films set in a spaceship. I adore Sunshine (2007) and Contact (1997), but the former centers mostly on a spaceship and the latter on earth. I’m a huge fan of all the films above but as far as hardcore sci-fi is concerned, I consider only two films to be certified masterpieces – 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) and the other happens to be Gravity. 2001 was more of a cerebral head massage, Gravity takes you along for the ride, bumps et al. Technically, it is nothing short of a miracle. This film will be studied for ages to come.
There are few films that are simple yet complex. Most filmmakers try to complicate their film with heavy plot details and fancy intellectual banter but Alfonso Cuaron goes for a minimalist approach when it comes to the story. Imagine all the tension of Apollo 13 (1995) without a conventional plot. (If you think Cuaron cannot make a masterpiece with a good plot watch Children of Men, 2006). The barebones plot is not a shortcoming in any way. In a lesser film, it would stick out and decrease the enormity of the experience. Here, the lack of it elevates the material. If I were in space, the last thing I’d want is a movie-like story. What I would want is getting a good ending, however that would be. Gravity heads in one direction, which could be easily mistaken for repetition. I saw it as pattern. Patterns that repeat themselves to make us learn something till we don’t. The film is essentially about one character and her journey. The word journey feels small here. She is lost in space and wants to find something to hold on to. Literally, metaphorically and spiritually. “Nobody has ever taught me how to pray” she says. There are Christian themes laced all over. The concept of birth, death and rebirth are beautifully rendered. The elements of air, fire, water and land all get their due. It doesn’t hammer us with big questions like “why are we here, is there a higher power?” and doesn’t have direct philosophical ambition but it does have them hidden for those seeking.
The film’s center of gravity is Sandra Bullock playing Dr. Ryan Stone. She is here to repair the Hubble telescope (I feel dumb saying something so simplistic in a film which boasts high scientific prowess). We only see her face and hear her voice mostly. She nails every heartbeat, every breath. George Clooney is more of a supporting character but his contribution is immense. There is also a voice-cameo by Ed Harris, a space film thespian of The Right Stuff (1983) and Apollo 13.
Emmanuel Lubezki pushes the boundaries of cinematography. When I said I didn’t know a film like this could be made, I was mostly pointing towards my disbelief over a film like this being shot this way, or at all. The camera is literally floating throughout the movie and we are given a chance to swim with it. Damn it, a tear floats in space! Have you ever seen that? Go watch it just for that! Each shot is breathlessly astounding and showcases all sorts of brilliance. I usually like my 3D to take me inside the screen than things leaping out of the screen and into my eyes destroying the basic concept of a cinema screen. Gravity offers many chances to want to get inside the screen, with things floating in the fore, mid and background. Although, there came a scene when things did leap out of the screen, almost came in contact with my eyes and lo and behold, it was glorious! This is the way it should be done. Avatar (2009) pushed the boundaries of 3D and started an unstoppable tidal wave with every other film being made with the added dimension. But the seas part every once in a while and we get a Hugo (2011) or Life of Pi (2012). It has happened once again with the 3D phantasmagoria called Gravity. If this film is not worth watching in 3D then I don’t know what is.
While I was stunned throughout the film, I also found myself consistently struck with awe. You cannot look at those shots of the earth and not be engulfed in a surreal sense of wonder. It’s what dreams are made of. Apart from the ones that poke us in the night, all of us have dreams. We all want to be something when we grow up. Surprisingly, we have all wanted to be an astronaut at one point in our life. (There are heavy spiritual implications in that fact, if you think about it). Gravity is your ticket to ride. Mind you, it is not a pleasant one up there, but neither is life down here. Then again, there are mysteries and marvels up there that are beyond human imagination. Alfonso Cuaron captures some of it with bedazzling beauty. Gravity is a masterpiece of filmmaking and most definitely my favorite film of 2013.view less