GRAVITY directed by the Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron from a script by Cuaron in collaboration with his son Jonas Cuaron, is a luminous film with fine performances by Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a Bio-Medical Engineer on her first outing into outer space, accompanied by George Clooney as the veteran, wisecracking Astronaut, Matt Kowalski who is her guide on this mission working outside the shuttle Explorer trying to fix the Hubble Telescope. Soon the idyllic beauty and silence of the deep blackness, which was only punctuated by soft far-off sounds of the other crew members is threatened by debris rushing at them from a Russian Satellite test gone awry. Suddenly the “heavenly” environment has changed from peaceful quietude to thundering menace.
What happens to these two protagonists when they are stranded – two specks in the vast universe, separated from any contact with Mission Control, contributes to the intensity and apprehension that we feel witnessing their dilemma. Cuaron’s spectacular visuals heighten our awareness of the isolation of Stone and Kowalksi drifting in the infinite sublimity and mystery of outer space, tethering it to the existential detachment and solitariness that we experience as mortals.
Through the breathtaking cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki we view images of the Earth as seen from a Space station, the rising of the sun, the topography of lands and water masses that become abstract faraway places of light and texture. The special effects in this movie are astonishing. From the balletic, slow spinning dance of the two actors, choreographed so that the weightless movement of objects float around them in continuous motion, dizzying, but slowed down enough so we can observe without getting dizzy ourselves, to the interior of the intricate space modules with gadgetry that is continually buzzing and flashing incomprehensible flickering flares reinforcing our sense of dread.
I loved the cinematic moments when there was an absence of sound, periodically interspersed with Steven Price’s music. I wished there had been less dialogue, which was often inane and flippant, piercing the delicacy of the mood. Dr. Ryan Stone loves the “silence” but regrettably we do get the talky, joking Matt Kowalski - the “regular guy” with a sacrificial heart of gold - chattering away bringing us out of our reverie and back down to earth. Perhaps that was the intent of Alfonso Cuaron – as life both in the cosmos and on terra firma are a mix of the transcendent and the commonplace.