TIFF Review: Gravity

Gravity is an absolutely beautiful film. Alfonso Cuarón’s film is a technical marvel – impressively filmed, simply told, and elegant, it’s a survival story that leaves you breathless.

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The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as surviving astronauts in a damaged space shuttle.  Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first Space Shuttle mission accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), who is commanding his final expedition. During a spacewalk, debris from a satellite crashes into the space shuttle Explorer, leaving it mostly destroyed, and stranding them in space with limited air.

I won’t say much more on the plot, but Cuarón has directed a truly original thriller – a story about survival against the quiet chaos of space. In its 90-minute runtime, Gravity manages to make the audience feel so helpless – to truly feel the vastness of space and the immediate danger of the situation.

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Sandra Bullock is just so good in this film. With much of the focus in the film on her voice and face, she really conveys the fear and utter vulnerability of her situation. When Dr. Stone’s air supply becomes an issue (as it often does in space), the audience finds itself gasping for breath along with her. Pardon the pun, but this role really was a breath of fresh air for Bullock. Completely unexpected, understated and believable. George Clooney is characteristically charming, and the two actors had great chemistry.  After seeing the trailer, I had my reservations – but they’ve done a fantastic job, and crafted a solid thriller with really great performances. It has surpassed my expectations, and I can’t wait to see it again.

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Cuarón along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have created a masterpiece for the space and sci-fi genre. It’s a stunning film – a great technical achievement, and incredibly seamless in its use of special effects and truly great camera work. See this film on the biggest and best screen possible (IMAX 3D if you can). I’m not sure how many times I can say it – but it’s so unbelievably beautiful. From wonderful shots of the Earth, to sequences of uncontrolled zero-gravity spinning, I found myself asking “how did they do this?!” Every scene feels instantly iconic. Cuarón and Lubzeki should definitely be recognized for this achievement come awards season.

Cuarón is an impressive story teller. I love the look of his films (especially Children of Men), and Gravity is by far his most visually thrilling work. He uses of powerful imagery to play with questions of life, death, and spirituality, leaving the audience to dwell on the bleak outcomes for this one person floating in the vast loneliness of space. The film starts with the phrase “life in space is impossible” and through the struggles of the characters in the film, we find ourselves trying to prove the phrase wrong.

Even with a few character and story clichés, Cuarón has crafted a wondrous white-knuckle thriller that is a stunning achievement in filmmaking – an enthralling cinematic experience that really has to be seen to be believed.

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