Film Focus: Gravity (2012)

Gravity opens with a floating scene of Earth and space, exposing all the beauty a camera can fit into an image, or series of images, taken out in the vast universe. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer, and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), an astronaut, are facing the same destiny of destruction when the Russians blow up their own satellite and, consequently, cause an attack of debris, flying fiercely at bullet speed. Trying desperately to save their lives after the crucial catastrophe, the main protagonists are left adrift in space thanks to the anti-gravity. The horror, of course, doesn’t end there. After a series of unfortunate events, Clooney’s amusing character disappears into space and Sandra finds herself completely alone, devastated, trying to figure out an escape plan while running out of oxygen.

What do you do when you’re left all by yourself, having nothing but your survival instincts conquered by fear as your oxygen is slowly slipping away? How do you fight with the outer world that doesn’t seem to be helping you? And, most importantly, how do you overcome the state of weakness that has invaded your own inner world?

How do you stay strong when the challenge of surviving has become impossible?

From the sense of helplessness to the rebirth of hope, from the loosened courage to the recollected adrenaline rush of feeling alive, Gravity goes into an exploration of how far the human spirit can go and survive. Or is it limitless the potential we as human beings have?

Being trapped in space is not a common scenario, but fear and doubt, driven to escalation by desperation, are most certainly parts of life as we know it.

Sandra Bullock portrays every little transition from one feeling to another so deliberately good, it’s almost as if you’re there, experiencing each emotional change with her. An Oscar-worthy performance. Clooney’s screen time marks less than half of the movie but that is just enough for the audience to be completely charmed.

Matt Kowalski, a truly lovable character, appears to be always attracted to the idea of vodka, and in a mission to retain the past memories alive. Having escaped the lethal debris rain, he keeps sharing stories of his former glory, arguably anything else than fabrications of his imagination, to keep the spirits of his colleague, Ryan, rather than his own. Mr Kowalski doesn’t seem to mind the approaching end. Furthermore, he chooses to spend the remaining time in space contemplating and admiring the beauty that surrounds him, to fall voluntarily into a deep state of trance.

Ryan Stone, however, can’t handle the intensity of the situation that easily. Her acceptance of the status quo is nowhere to be seen. Well, I guess I would be battling with unease, too, if on my first mission to space everything went wrong.

The man behind the idea, Alfonso Cuarón, also known for directing Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, succeeds once again in producing a film so enthralling, so visually captivating, it’s rather shameful its length is only 87 minutes.

In the movie, Sandra Bullock sets a timer that counts down the time she has in order to escape this horror taking place in outer space, because the debris that caused the first accident will make a reappearance in another 90 minutes. Funny fact is that it actually takes precisely 90 minutes for the International Space Station to orbit the earth. The Mexican director, however, doesn’t seem to have known that beforehand, it’s all a mere coincidence according to his words, yet a good addition to the movie trivia.

For some reason Gravity reminded me of Melancholia. Maybe it’s just the emotional effect that’s similar between the two of them, the sense of helplessness and destruction. Melancholia might be set on Earth, yet the movie creates an atmosphere of solitude, of being completely alone. It challenges you to think of escape routes, without ever providing the characters with a map. So you wander around only to figure out your time’s limited, much like the countdown in Gravity that with each second’s taking away an extra remnant of the oxygen. Lars von Trier’s Melancholia represents a very controversial movie; some say it’s genius, others that it makes no sense. As I watched it, I felt getting suffocated, having my breath taken away – that must mean something, that someone has done their job pretty damn well even if the film itself is not my cup of tea.

The same way we are different, we perceive the world, and art, and movies differently. But that’s okay. This gives colours and richness to life, it makes it a more sophisticated and intricate place to explore.

Said to be the best movie of 2013, Gravity keeps you on the edge of your seat with its gradually growing intensity and engrossing acting. This visual sci-fi masterpiece builds an unbelievably realistic atmosphere with great effects and a beautiful soundtrack. I’d definitely recommend it!

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