The fact that Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity exists is a marvel. I had the privilege of seeing it on the largest digital IMAX screen in North America. To blink would be to miss the sheer majesty displayed for the entire 93 minutes. Gravity is a grade-A, first-class, on-the-edge-of-your-seat action sci-fi thriller—nothing more, nothing less. At this point, one can find two types of reviews: 1) Reviews praising the beauty of the film using words such as, “magisterial”, “camrobatics”, “transcendent” and “captivating”, all while making sure to allude to visual metaphors of umbilical cords and fetuses. 2) Reviews attempting to be the voice of reason amongst critics assuring them the movie is nothing more than showboating visual effects with characters for whom the audience has no attachment. I will leave that banter for critics to argue among themselves, because in spite of differing opinions about the film’s greatness, I had the most fun and thrilling cinematic experience of the year.
Gravity mesmerizes the audience with a beautiful near 15-minute opening sequence showing Dr. Ryan Stone, Matt Kowalski (Sandra Bullock, George Clooney) and crew making repairs on the Hubble Space Telescope. When a cloud of debris from a Russian satellite sweeps in with all its destructive force, communication with Houston is down, leaving Kowalski and Stone untethered and drifting in the vastness of space. Life is impossible. Survival is essential. What unfolds from here is a thrilling adventure-survival story of Stone and Kowalski trying to make it back home. Gravity is not a philosophical musing of the meaning of life or the vastness of the cosmos, nor should it be. It does not allow you to meditate for very long because Cuarón wants to take you on his thrill ride. Can a film unabashedly seek to entertain audiences without “deep” meaning and still be considered a great film? Can a film be a crowd pleaser, and that not be a bad thing?
I say yes, but do not hear that I am saying the film is void of any richness or character development. What’s to marvel at is that Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, have crafted a cinematic achievement that is as beautiful to behold as it is entertaining to watch. Particularly enthralling to watch was Sandra Bullock’s physical toughness and fragility. She brings a delicate intimacy to a movie filled with fast paced aggressiveness. A best actress nomination is certainly in the ballpark for this woman who is rising to the top of her game.
One image that I can’t get out of my head will place me in the category of reviewer 1 as mentioned above. Dr. Stone has made it safely into the escape pod and curls into the fetal position, appearing to be tethered to an umbilical cord, floating at zero gravity. It was a serene and tranquil moment of beauty following heart-pounding terror. I’m reminded of a quote from Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs when another B-A female lead, Clarice Starling is found sleeping in the laundry room: “The washing machine’s rhythm was like a great hearbeat and the rush of its waters was what the unborn hear—our last memory of peace” (Harris 352). I can’t tell you what the symbols mean, but I can tell you I was mystified by the visual metaphors of sperm, ovaries, umbilical cords and fetuses throughout Gravity. Life in space is impossible, but life in the womb, one fertilized egg at incredible odds producing life is truly a miracle.
This film will only garner more and more hype as word of mouth spreads across the country. I’m going to go back, and I suspect many will too. This is the kind of movie that keeps people going to the movies. See it twice and tell your friends, “It’s gonna be one hell of a ride!”
Harris, Thomas. The Silence of the Lambs. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988. Print