GRAVITY. Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, voice of: Ed Harris. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron.96 minutes. Rated M (Survival themes, disturbing images and coarse language).
Gravity was a critical and popular success on its first release. It seems that the public was interested in a more the realistic space story.
The 1960s saw great interest in space both in cinema and on television. Star Trek began in that decade and has continued in popularity through many series as well as many cinema features, Star Trek into Darkness appearing only some months before Gravity. The 1960s also saw the release of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. This was an immense cosmic poem which included an evolutionary sequence, a space station in 2001 and a finale of a psychedelic journey through space beyond Jupiter as well as rediscovering a classical 18th century room setting. The symbol was a vast monolith which represented, if not God, then transcendence. And the film ended with hope and the image of the birth of a star child.
45 years later, and a world that has become accustomed to space journeys and star wars, Gravity seems to be a welcome visual look again at space, 21st century style. While there are elements of a cinema vision in the beauty of the photography of space, space vehicles and space stations, and the gravity-less movement in space which looks like mime and dance, this is a realistic film.
The plot, in fact, is quite slight in its way, the work of director Alfonso Cuaron and his son, Jonas. A spaceship is doing experimental work, one of the experts working on some technical design. There is an explosion, a storm of space debris, and the work and the expedition is imperilled.
With the members of the crew dead, there are only two survivors, Ryan, played by Sandra Bullock, and Matt, played by George Clooney. When Ryan seems to be drifting far from the craft, Matt rescues her. However, a number of difficulties ensue and it is up to Ryan to make a decision to bring the craft back to earth and to survive.
The film has many moments of tension and Sandra Bullock is fine as the strong-minded-astronaut in danger. George Clooney offers his usual pleasant and reassuring presence.
There are some moments when audiences may think that screenplay has become contrived, desperate for a happy ending. However, that is something of a hallucination - but it does provide some almost mystical-like moments, a sense of great solidarity, and reinforcement of the will to live.
The film was photographed in 3 D and the recommendation for the audience would be to see it in that format, giving great depth to the experience of outer space.
It is said that films can make a great impression on a person’s life. This reviewer, having seen Gravity and been impressed, is determined never to go into space. On the other hand, the mysteries of space and its future may well entice younger audiences to look forward to the future - out there.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out October 3 2013.