Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gravity - Deadspace Downfall

                                       Ryan Stone: I hate space!

I was intrigued with Gravity from the moment the project was announced, it seemed to be a theme never attempted. Marooned in space, with only two characters who fight for survival not against aliens, but against a more human catastrophe, and an opening scene, a long take that lasts for 13 minutes, what was there to not be intrigued by it? As many other big budget movies were released over the course of a couple of years, Gravity had moved down my list of movies to watch and I had almost forgotten about it, I thought the project was shelved. But I chanced upon its trailer a couple of months back, and since then, it had soared back to the top of my must-watch films.

And it will stay on top, for never before has something so spellbinding ever been attempted. Watching Gravity on the big screen is the closest you would come to reaching for the stars, the space is Alfonso Cuaron’s giant canvas and he paints it with breathtaking imagery.  The stars, the space stations, the jaw-dropping image of planet Earth in all its glory, there is so much out there, up above the world so high that when seen on the big screen would make you rave about it. Yet, what Cuaron makes us fear more is the vast expanse of nothingness where our protagonists are lost.  An endless dark abyss where the deeper you fall into, the more engulfed you get by its silence. And there is so much of silence.

Cuaron takes no time in setting up the film right from the opening single shot scene, where the camera traverses across the limitless space and goes on to focus on the two protagonists to the tune of the pulse pounding background score.  The sequences of debris hurtling into the path of the astronauts is stunningly shot, the 3-D has been used like no other film previously seen before, from flames to teardrops the smallest of things have been amazingly shot by Cuaron and his team, no wonder it left James Cameron speechless.

Gravity is an achievement in film making, with Cuaron’s grand vision complimented well by the lead actors. If the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, and sound engineering are a treat to visual and aural senses, then Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s portrayal of the hapless astronauts keeps you emotionally engaged. Clooney’s Matthew Kowalski is the seasoned and level-headed mission commander, who with his Zen like calmness tries to ease the nerves of the greenhorn Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) as she keeps falling inward into the bottomless pit, literally and metaphorically. But it is Sandra Bullock who as Dr. Ryan Stone is the hero you will be rooting for, unsure, terrified, and with a draining oxygen tank, Stone has a tragic past for which she blames herself, and the recent catastrophe only gives her a reason to give up on surviving, which is shown in a brilliant scene towards the end through her tearful outburst where she realizes that there is no one waiting for her at Earth, nobody who’d miss her if she were gone. Bullock nails the character with much gravitas, she initially had me skeptical since I found her role to be an extension of the jumpy and panicky Annie from Speed, but Ms. Bullock deserves as much accolades coming her way for this is a movie that not just depended on the visuals but also on the actors. You worry for her when she drifts off into space, and you cheer for her when she tries to get into the escape pod hoping that she makes it.  

It would be unfair to label Gravity as a sci-fi movie, this is a story that could as well be set in sandy dunes as much as it is set in space. Space is just a backdrop, with the peril of falling debris in fact a possible catastrophe named Kesslersyndrome. This is less of a sci-fi horror and more of a survival-thriller, an astounding piece of cinematic achievement that would pop your eyes off its sockets, where every shot from the movie is a potential front-runner for your desktop wallpaper.

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