Review: Gravity

Spoilers

Trailer

Gravity is an Alfonso Cuarón's project featuring stunning views and abject terror.

Gravity is an Alfonso Cuarón’s project featuring stunning views and abject terror.

A lot of positive reviews for this one doing the rounds as it was released abroad (takes ages to come out here) piqued my interest. In truth, the kind of science fiction that this film encapsulates isn’t my usual fare, not that I have anything against it specifically.

But here is Gravity, one of that rarest breed: a live-action movie that was recommended for its 3D quality. A beautifully crafted trailer (above) sealed the deal, not to mention the involvement of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, two actors I have a great deal of time for (which, sometimes makes me feel as if I am part of some minority).

Ryan Stone (Bullock) is a rookie astronaut under the command of veteran Matt Kowalski (Clooney). While on a mission to service the Hubble Space Telescope, the two find themselves stranded, the only survivors after a catastrophe caused by a rapidly orbiting debris field. With the clock ticking on their chances of survival, and no possibility of an outside rescue, the two are left alone to try and save themselves.

Gravity is a good film. An overrated film in my estimation, but still a good one.

The story is that of a thriller, one set in an exciting, exotic and unique locale, but still just a thriller nonetheless. Director Alfonso Cuarón clearly had two ideas when it came to Gravity – to make a thriller movie, and to make a movie that could show off that most wondrous of sights: our planet from low Earth orbit. Unfortunately for the story of Gravity, one of those things, along with the visuals in general, takes a decided priority to the while affair.

As thrillers go though, it is still a good effort. You heart will be pumping when you watch Gravity, as much as your eyes rejoice in the imagery onscreen, but it is unlikely that the plotline will leave you engaged in a satisfactory manner.

This is a science-fiction film set in space, but it is not purely a film to be classed in that genre. Far more than that, it is a survival movie, something more like Castaway than Moon. Stone and Kowalski are shipwrecked in a vast black sea, islanded in a stream of stars if you will struggling to find land or a safe port of call, just trying to survive this horrific situation and get home intact.

Gravity works within that kind of frame. The story here is basic, that of a woman trying to survive a terrible experience directly, but also trying to find a reason to live, since she is coming from dark circumstances back home. As Gravity starts Stone has no reason to go home. Gravity then takes us on her journey, since she is the only character to be thoroughly fleshed out, from non-caring to committed to her own survival.

Gravity shows that journey, as Stone reacts to the things she faces, first from a purely animal like nature – just trying to get to the nearest safe point so she can prolong her own existence – to the finale, where she has found a reason to live, has the impetus to reject past grief’s and move forward with her life. From that point, Gravity is a more emotionally charged experience, since it’s not just about getting back to Earth safely anymore, it’s about getting back to Earth safely and then having a life worth living.

It is also very minimalist story telling. There are only two characters actually worth talking about in Gravity, and a handful of ancillary voices who barely register as anything more than a few lines of dialogue. There are only three real sets and one Earth-bound locale to speak off. That makes for a story that seems infinitesimally small and reduced compared to the blackness that it takes place in, but maybe that was the whole point, to craft a tale that makes the audience understand just how tiny and insignificant a few people on a space station are in comparison to the wonder and terror of the universe.

Bullock is great as Stone, in a movie where she must carry the acting front all by herself for large parts.

Bullock is great as Stone, in a movie where she must carry the acting front all by herself for large parts.

I mean, it’s a one woman show for most of its running length. The decision to have Kowalski sacrifice himself in order to save Stone was as cliché as they come in its execution, but it allowed for that greater sense of isolation, a decision to reduce the cast to one that, to my surprise, actually improved the experience. One of the points of Gravity is that space is a lonely scary place, so having the narrative focus on just one character is perfect for that.

Like I said, it is basic, not just because of the limited cast and sets, but in its inherent nature. Gravity is a survival story that is told in a competent manner, which hits the required and well-travelled beats of such a story, ending on the expected notes just as sure as it began on the same. It is a tried and true type of narrative, that has been adapted for a new environment, but it is a tale as old as time and a journey that the audience will have gone on before. Cast way, Robinson Crusoe, 127 Hours, any number of stories or tales that revolve around survival and the journey within for singular characters.

But it still has some uniqueness in its format. The very setting and the realistic way that it is approached is unique, as is the choice to focus entirely on this setting. Apollo 13 is a movie that you would naturally feel drawn towards for comparisons, but Cuarón forgoes anything set on Earth in terms of set-up or mission control activities. You might argue that Gravity could actually do with some stuff like that, as so much is being crammed into its genuinely tiny running time of just over an hour and a half. Perhaps additional material could have provided an outlet for better character development and scene setting. But that is not what the director has gone for, choosing for a more simple and single-minded approach, where he can allow the literal stars to play their part throughout nearly the entire 90 minutes. Such an approach is not without its negatives, but is to be applauded in this day and age, I would feel. It’s a risk, and a risk that was worth taking.

Unfortunately, Stone’s journey is not without its bumps, and I don’t mean the 50’000KPH space debris that whizzes by occasionally. Gravity suffers from an over the top maudlin streak in its characterisation of Stone. She has lost a daughter in a way that she describes as “the stupidest thing”, and this trauma is supposed to define her, and her journey to get home. The way it’s presented damages that effort, in one drawn out monologue about her pain and the way she reacted to it, thrown in at a quiet moment, and so easily resolved later on by a ghostly visitation. It felt very much like a slight case of telling rather than showing in so many respects. Faced with a scene where the two astronauts have to travel to the ISS, Cuarón places Bullock’s character in a situation where she simply outlines her backstory fully, just so the audience understands why she is a constant loner, why she likes being out in space, what she’s running from, etc. Later, when the story requires that she get over it, Clooney pops back up in an hallucination sequence that was as cliché as it was patronising, as the male commander engages in some good ol’ fashioned “mansplaining”, dictating Stone’s own feelings and emotions to her, telling her to get over it, and then telling her how to get out of her current situation, a scene I found baffling in its clumsy execution.

I understand why that scene exists I mean, Clooney needed a bit more screen time to supplement his characters rather drab characterisation and there are plenty who would be bored by near an hour of Stone being on her own with no one but herself to talk to. And I know that “Kowalski” was just an aspect of the Stone personality trying to get through to her.

But did it really have to be portrayed that way? With the man explaining things to the woman in so straight forward a manner, as to almost make the Stone character look like an idiot? Moreover, such a stunning and life-changing realisation to make seems tawdry and unbelievable in such circumstances, an instant volte face that casually dismisses so much of the problems that Stone was facing in her life (not that they stopped her from becoming an astronaut). Would it not have been better for Stone to come to those conclusions herself, even if she was just talking to herself? Or perhaps if she could stay in radio contact with the real Kowalski, who could still advise her as he drifted towards an inevitable end? At least that option would have given the two greater time to interact and lessened the tastelessness of the aforementioned scene.

But the characterisation isn’t all bad, even if it is just a little bit basic. Stone’s interaction with what I read was supposed to be a Greenlandic Inuit on Earth was far more moving and effective, even though the two characters could not understand each other. There was a sense there, as Stone hears a crying child, off a willingness to just give up and go to a place where her daughter was waiting for her, and I bought that Stone would immediately turn to a painless and easy way out because of it. That was good stuff and I’ll speak on it more in a minute. But it was fairly ruined by what followed.

Visual takes preference over story every time in Gravity, with act breaks even punctuated by lingering pans over Earth over actually continuing the tale that is being told. It’s not all bad of course, those shots are brilliant, and Cuarón was actually able to work in some good visual moments and symbols on a more minor level as well. You just wonder if some of the time spent on recreating that image of Earth or the destruction of the ISS might not have been better spent on improving the quality of the story, the characterisation of Stone or some of the more questionable scenes.

All of that being said, it is still a tense, thrilling movie. Cuarón is a man who knows how to build suspense using simple CGI or camerawork, and this kind of scenario doesn’t actually require that much dialogue to help in that process. An opening shot that lasts nearly 15 minutes establishes us in that universe fully and directly. This is a world – or not as the case may be – that seems utterly alien to the eyes of most of us, an inhospitable desert where man cannot even walk, but must swim in air, knowledgeable that a tiny hole will destroy him as soon as flying space debris. It is a vicious and dangerous place to tread, and that sense of abject terror and excitement only lets go of you during portions of Gravity. Cuarón masterfully ramps up that tension and suspense as he goes along, and thus hooks the audience in wholesale. It is the kind of movie where the plot decisions, the bad ones anyway, do not rankle during the watching of it, only afterwards, because when you are in your seat in the cinema, all you care about is whether Stone will make it back alive. In that respect, Gravity is an entertaining and utterly enrapturing film to watch, though it might make you frown afterwards.

The ending might by the height of that feeling, of course. Stone makes it back to Earth, as she inevitably must following her sudden revelation and new commitment to life. She endures many perils in getting to that point, including, ironically, a threat of drowning at the last moment. But she makes it. However, Cuarón then chooses to keep the camera on Bullock as she struggles out of the water, hugs the ground, wobbles on legs too used to a lack of the titular force, but then stands up straight and walks off into a new future. Picturesque and tying back in to the central idea, but wholly unnecessary.  A better closing shot might simply have been the escape pod hitting the water intact with Stone in radio contact with Houston once more, no longer “in the blind”, or even just emerging from the water where her sunken vehicles now lays. It just seems as if the director is indulging himself a little too much, going too far with the conclusion of the Stone story, as if he is afraid the audience will not have gotten it enough by the time the credits roll unless he actually shows Bullock’s character standing up and embracing life back on Earth.

To a fault, Gravity is obsessed with showing us the beauty of Planet Earth from LEO.

To a fault, Gravity is obsessed with showing us the beauty of Planet Earth from LEO.

There has been some talk on the scientific accuracy of the film, with many noted commentators chiming in on the topic. I am not, in any way, an expert on the mechanics of life in space, but if there were the occasional inaccuracy or exaggeration, I cannot say that it bothered me. Gravity is not a documentary after all, and some artistic license is not only to be expected to make a better story, but is to be encouraged. Maybe Stone just needed to give Kowalski’s line a tug to get him drifting back to her. Maybe it would be impossible to drift from the ISS to an opposing station so simply. Maybe it is a bit much to expect that Stone could handle a space vessel operated through Chinese with such relative ease. In the end, these are minor quibbles, which would bother only the most joyless kind of person.

Gravity has gotten much praise and kudos from reviewers, and I fully acknowledge that it is nearly all deserved. But in all of those praising reviews, I find little mention of Gravity’s plot as a reason to cheer it, which should be very telling to everyone. Cuarón’s focus is on something else entirely, and while the story is far from throwaway, it was clearly a secondary concern.

On the acting front, there are only two people to talk about. Sandra Bullock is the kind of actress with one terrible role for every good one, but she won an Oscar for a reason, and she does a fine job with the Stone character here.

Along with Clooney, Bullock has a very hard job here. The vast majority of her time onscreen, she’s on her own and encased in a bulky suit, which limits her ability to use any kind of body language to accentuate her performance. Ditto for the frequently lousy dialogue. What Bullock has, and what the camera focuses on for a large part of the time, is just her face.

And, she does great, for the most part. Bullock is playing a quiet, lonely person, and she gives off those qualities, of a very lonely person utterly unused to being in the position that she is in. When she contemplates death in this howling dark, you can see that low desperation in her face. When she realises that she is truly alone on the ISS with Kowalski out of reach, you can hear that sadness in her tone. When she begins her re-entry procedure and goes on about her new found desire to keep going, Bullock puts good shift in.

The best is probably her interaction with the Greenlandic radio operator. Bullock, tired, fed up, close to the edge, loses herself in a moment of mild hysteria, howling along with the man’s dog with a happiness that can only come from a person who realises that she is not actually alone in the universe. But Bullock turns it expertly when a baby’s cry comes through the speakers, another reminder of the things she lost on the Earth she is trying to get back. The CGI tears added just the right reminder of the immediate situation while giving the right indication of Bullock’s performance.

This can be placed into the list of Bullock’s better acting jobs, even if she has the occasional bad moment, not least that scene with the imaginary Kowalski. In fact, her general interactions with Kowalski are quite weak, but that is more to do with the male character than her performance.

Clooney has been cast rather lazily in this. His Kowalski is like a character from the 1940’s/50’s, full of rustic charm, or at least attempts at it. He is a mission commander, but spends more time trying to tell funny personal stories than actually doing his job, something that doesn’t really seem quite right.

Clooney is probably at his best when he turns serious, like when the debris field first appears in the distance, or when he desperately tries to get a fix on Stone’s position in the aftermath of the initial disaster. But in everything else he is fairly bland, save perhaps for his final lines which are delivered with some genuine emotion. His ghostly apparition isn’t much better, simply more “charm” and attempts to fabricate a core relationship between him and Stone, one that has the bare traces of romantic, but falls flat on the final look.

The remainder of the cast is voice only, and have precious little to actually impress with. Ed Harris as Mission Control, Paul Sharma as the teams other member who dies quite quickly and Orto Ignatiussen as the Greenlandic radio operator fulfil the tiny rolls they were given to play, leaving Bullock and to a lesser extent Clooney firmly in the spotlight.

Clooney struggles in a role that is poorly developed and features prominently in one very bad scene.

Clooney struggles in a role that is poorly developed and features prominently in one very bad scene.

As already stated, Gravity is a visual experience first and foremost, and it is a stunning visual experience at that. Taking place with a near constant background of our planet from orbit, Cuarón crafts a tale that has one of the most majestic backdrops possible.

Most of the set-up is done in the first 13 minutes in one long shot that establishes Earth in all of its glory, the scenario, the main characters and the immediate peril, but viewers might be forgiven for focusing more on what is behind the main players than what they are talking about. Through the course of Gravity we float by some recognisable landmarks, most spectacularly the Nile region, and some unrecognisable ones, but all beautiful in their own way, not least the sight of the sunrise from LEO or the mesmerising image of the Aurora Borealis on the north pole.

That very real sense of being tiny is created from the off and never really goes away. The Earth, through the use of 3D and the right amount of visual tech, is presented in all of its wonder and quiet glory, a spinning ball of blue seas, green hills, dark valleys and bright lights.

But that majestic vista is just part of Gravity’s visual success. So much work has been put into recreating the human outposts of space that one cannot help but be struck by the eye for detail or the CGI wizardry on display. The ISS and its Chinese equivalent are wonderfully presented sets, an impression aided by the use of the camera while you are in them.

Cuarón switches between camera choices and viewpoints constantly, but never in an irritating or jarring fashion. From that opening shot that swoops and pans across the cast as they go about their business, to the rapid close-up on Stone as she careens out of control, to the brief first person views that heighten the tension and the immersion, Cuarón, with Emmanuel Lubezki, has affected a masterpiece of cinematography. Much like Captain Phillips, it is a very claustrophobic movie, although with none of the shaky cam of Greengrass. Cuarón makes sure that we are up close and personal for most of Gravity, which is important as the faces of Bullock and Clooney are the only parts of his cast that he really has to work with. But when he does go wide, like in the hauntingly beautiful shot of Stone trying to swim upwards from her drowned capsule, it also works very well. In fact, the weightlessness issue is handled excellently, with no moments where it felt unreal or poorly implemented.

The more all out CGI work is brilliant too. The destruction of the ISS in particular is a wonder, as the station is torn into pieces which float around the screen, a thousand objects of different movement and purpose, with Stone caught in the middle of them. The strength of the 3D really comes to the fore here, as objects zip towards the viewer causing that intense moment of terror, one partially set-up and created by the death of Paul Sharma’s character earlier. It was dazzlingly in its complexity and heart-racing ability.

I hear that the lack of horizons in terms of the background really helps with the creation of a proper 3D capable environment for filming, and that really comes out in Gravity. I dislike 3D for the most part, I find it rather pointless in most movies it is part of, but it is well suited for a project like Gravity.

It wasn’t alone as a breathless sequence of course. The fire onboard the ISS was also great, a very simple idea that really created the sense that such a small spark could rapidly become something altogether devastating, that Stone could not possibly control on her own. Also, the final sequences, as the Tiangong station descends into Earth’s atmosphere and starts to come apart was well executed, a bit more traditional than the previous action beats, but enjoyable nonetheless.

If Gravity does one thing with those sequences that I found very compelling, it was to really hammer home the idea that these vehicles and stations are remarkably fragile. There might be a misconception in popular culture that spacecraft are as hard as battleships, one helped by most traditional science fiction, but Gravity shows things far closer to how they really are. The ISS, escape pods and even shuttles are made from simple materials that are as susceptible to damage as most similar constructs on Earth. From the first moments of the catastrophe in Gravity, that feeling is placed in the audiences mind, which ramps up the tension significantly. These lifeboats that Stone finds herself in might as well be made of cardboard considering the hurtling pieces of space debris that they must face.

A point about the body work. After the initial collision, Stone and Kowalski find the body of their dead crewmate, and it is one of the most horrific discoveries I have seen on screen in a long time. A piece of debris has shot through his face, leaving a gut-churningly precise hole in his features, with little trace of blood, a moment juxtaposed with a nearby picture of the man before his demise. It really hits the viewer hard, raises the stakes, and presents the debris as the deadly threat that it actually is, objects moving so fast that a human skull barely counts as an impediment. Discovering the bodies of the other crewman inside the shuttle was another very scary moment, in a more traditional way,  but just as effective in its goal. Some good prosthetic work has gone into those moments. Gravity is not a horror movie, but masterfully creates those horror beats.

It is impossible to get across with screenshots how well crafted the CGI and 3D of Gravity is.

It is impossible to get across with screenshots how well crafted the CGI and 3D of Gravity is.

It isn’t all good of course. Cuarón likes his foetal metaphors, and there is a lingering focus on one in particular, when Stone first reaches the ISS, that went on way, way too long, almost laughably so. Also, very occasionally the CGI work breaks down from its normally high level, like Stone’s final approach to the Chinese station, which can be just a little off-putting.

That Gravity’s visual work is so impressive of course means that elements of its production elsewhere has to be very unimpressive, and it is the script that takes the brunt of this. It’s a poor, limp effort from a director with an impressive back catalogue, and his son Jonas who is relatively unproven (which may be the problem), with wordplay that is blunt and straightforward in its workings. So many things are spelled out for the audience, and the interactions between Bullock and Clooney are weak in terms of scripting, with little verve or excitement in the words.

I’ve already gone over most of the worst examples, with the hallucination scene probably being the main offender, but there is also most of Clooney’s portion of the script, which is a lame attempt to imbue the character with the sort of charm that the writers can only wish he actually has.

When the script goes into unexpected places, like in Stone’s conversation with the Inuit, is where is briefly succeeds and manages to give the characters a voice that actually helps with the journey they are on. Also of note are Kowalski’s last words, an evocative callout to the beauty of the Ganges River as it meets the sunrise. But other than that, it is a very disappointing effort, a low point that is one of the key reasons for the plots general weakness. Gravity might well win awards, but it will not be for its writing.

Musically, it is a limited score and soundtrack from Stephen Price. It starts off very bombastically, with a piercingly loud overture leading to the title screen, before going into much more subdued territory, with notes and melodies that are at times indistinguishable from the sound on screen. Gravity makes a point of stating in the opening crawl that there is no sound in space, a nod to realism that Cuarón was hellbent on retaining, and it works. There is still sound, but it is of tremors and vibrations being felt from within the suits of the cast. Everything else, not least the supersonic space debris is eerily silent, and all the more chilling and effective for it.

It is fair to say that it is the sound, not the music, that Gravity finds its main auditory success. This sounds like the a movie set in space, the thuds, the reverberations, the alarms within the ships, the warning messages in numerous languages, the scorching heat burn of re-entry. Gravity doesn’t need a soundtrack for that, and, in fact, its best musical choice might have been the use of Arvo Part’s Spiegel im Spiegel in the trailer. It is in the simple sound editing that Gravity stakes its claim to be one of the year’s best experiences for your ears. In combinations with the impressive visuals, it makes it one of the all round best sensory experiences of the year too.

So, onto themes. As with any survival movie, you will find themes of hope and despair mixed together, a constant battle between them to see which will triumph, and if the main focus can find her way to embracing hope over despair.

Stone spends most of Gravity despairing. She’s only in space because she’s fleeing her problems back on Earth, and a life where her time outside work is spent driving around aimlessly, looking for a purpose for living following the death of her daughter. In space, she’s a helpless bystander for the early part of the catastrophe, someone to be saved from the oblivion of being “off station” by Kowalski and then just to be towed around by him. When left on her own, she struggles on, but with increasing hopelessness as a veritable Murphy’s Law of cataclysms engulfs her. She nearly runs out of air, she loses her last contact with Kowalski, the ISS goes on fire, the escape pod is entangled with the station, the space debris hits again, the pod is out of fuel.

It’s an overwhelming tide of negativity and horrible circumstances, and Stone naturally seems predisposed to settle in and die with painless ease when it seems she can’t keep going, a peace that comes after a minor tantrum when she realises the ISS pod is little more than a unique coffin. But from an hallucinatory experience with Kowalski, she comes to the conclusion that she has more to hold on for, that she make a life for herself, and that she cannot define herself by the quiet grief she has for her daughter. She embraces hope and the possibility that she might actually make back to the ground in one piece.

Having found that something to live for, she shows hustle and makes it to the Tiangong, gets the capsule going, survives a fire, survives drowning and crawls onto dry land, alive and with a sense of purpose at last, as she takes the first faltering steps into a new life. Hope has triumphed over despair in Gravity, as we knew that it must. Even Kowalski, doomed to wonder Earth orbit for eternity, does not give in to despair, and his last words are a hopeful look at the beauty that the planet provides.

Gravity is easily one of the best thrillers of the year, all the way up to its heart-racing conclusion onboard the Chinese Tiangong.

Gravity is easily one of the best thrillers of the year, all the way up to its heart-racing conclusion onboard the Chinese Tiangong.

Another key theme is that of solitude. It is spelled out pretty clearly that Stone’s attraction to this mission and to this task is the singularly unique opportunity that space provides for solitude and contemplation – a place where not even sound can exist, and where the nearest human habitation is so far away that only a bare radio signal marks it as existing. Stone is a lonely person, one with no life to speak off back on Earth following her own tragedy, who delights in loneliness, in existing as far away from human interaction as possible.

However, when left truly alone in space after Kowalski’s departure, she suffers enormously. Talking to the Inuit is a brief moment of unadulterated joy for her, but turns to heartache as she realises that she will not set foot on Earth ever again, will never again get the chance to live as she should live. This begins a rejection of her previous quest for loneliness and solitude, something she embraces after her hallucination of Stone. The drive to survive is fuelled by that need to make amends for her driftwood-style life, as she commits herself to seeking out new opportunities and not letting her existence be defined by the problems of her past. As the movies tagline says, probably an implied double meaning, “don’t let go”.

One of the more understated themes of Gravity is a general one pointing to faith and the power of religious symbols, which feature prominently and deliberately in several shots. There is a St Christopher icon, a statue of the Buddha onboard the Tiangong, Kowalski’s reference to the Ganges River, all small and subtle nods to various faiths. Kowalski’s nod at the Ganges, and its association with Hinduism, might point to the slight reincarnation he experiences later on in the movie, or he could just be a denizen of heaven sent to guide Stone back on to the right path. Similarly, the Buddha, a figure of enlightenment, is seen as Stone commits herself fully to the revelation that she has something to live for and a desire to get back home. It might also be no coincidence that Cuarón picked the Tiangong space station – (which, at time of writing, is still to be finished in the form that it appears in Gravity) for his finale, that Chinese “heavenly palace” that Stone rides to safety.

Perhaps on a larger scale, Gravity shows us that a reliance on technology will not save the human race, nor repair the damage to our souls in the event of a tragedy. Just as the ISS crumbles around Stone, so do the metaphorical walls that she has raised to ward off human contact. She has to place her trust in a higher idea, one of survival, hope and the knowledge that there is something better for her in another place, one that she must strive to reach, undergoing a painful process of self-realisation as she does so. A guardian angel of sorts is there to help her a bit along the way, in a story that deals greatly with falling low and glorious rebirth.

Of course, that is just one interpretation, which some may share and others may dismiss. It is not God, or Gods that get Stone on the ground, but the work of man. But I hope I may be forgiven for seeing such things in the work of Cuarón, as Gravity is not the story of technology triumphing over disaster, but that of the human spirit doing so, something that has more of a connection to faith than a connection to machinery.

Lastly, I would like to mention a possible theme of environmentalism, of a kind. Gravity is a movie that takes great pains to show us our planet from a perspective that is wholly unique and evocative, so I think it can be said that, much like many space based movies and documentaries, Cuarón may hope to foster a sense of connection between the audience and the planet that we inhabit, and so engender a feeling that we should take greater care of it. The crux of the plot after all, is wilful destruction undertaken by man leading to disastrous consequences for other members of humanity, as the ISS astronauts reel from the deadly impact of space based rubbish sent flying by a botched missile strike. Stone overcomes this problem, but the debris and the rubbish has not gone away, and spins around our world still, a problem that we will have to overcome if we are to reach out into the stars and realise our full potential, just as issues relating to more traditional environmentalism will have to be examined and overcome if we are to insure the survival of our planet as we would like it to be.

In conclusion, I must say that I really enjoyed Gravity, but it still failed on some fundamental levels. Its story and plot are rudimentary for the most part, only exhibiting signs of depth at certain stages, and never consistently. The male lead is struggling through his performance, and the script is very weak. It is not a movie that I could say that I was truly engaged with for any serious length of time.

But it is a movie that has built an immersive and wonderful experience for the senses, in its glorious visuals and experts sound editing, a thriller that ranks among the best of 2013. It is a unique movie in so many respects, that shows the audience one of the most interesting and realistic glimpses of how we operate outside of our own atmosphere. It is a story of hope triumphing over disaster, and offers a strong lead performance from Sandra Bullock to tie it all together.

As such, I can comfortably rank Gravity in the top half of the movies I have seen this year, although it would be an untruth if I placed it in the higher echelons as so many other movie critics have done. I love good cinematography and will gladly drool over impressive CGI, but when it comes to the movies, I want good plot and scripting to be at the forefront over what the audience will be staring wide-eyed at. The kind of experience that Cuarón has tried to create with Gravity is one that is not unworthy of the medium, but should be viewed with no less a critical eye for its deficiencies because of it. Expectations should be tempered with the knowledge that while it may well grab your heart and your senses, it will most likely fail to grab your brain. But, for all that, Gravity is still a great, great  movie, one that I would wholeheartedly recommend you go see (and in 3D).

Poor scripting and average plot are not enough to reduce Gravity's high quality in other areas.

Poor scripting and average plot are not enough to reduce Gravity’s high quality in other areas.

(All images are copyright of Warner Bros. Pictures).

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10 Responses to Review: Gravity

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Good review. I’ve been saying this many times before: The visuals are outstanding, but the script is weak. There, that’s it.

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