Director: Alfonso Cuarón
While carrying out routine repairs on a satellite, three astronauts are caught in a deadly wave of debris from the destruction of a Russian space station. The debris proves cataclysmic for everything nearby and for the two survivors, left stranded in their spacesuits floating hundreds of kilometres above Earth, escape or rescue seems completely impossible. Clutching at whatever hope they can, they set out toward the next nearest satellite, with low oxygen, low fuel for propulsion, and no idea what will await them at the other end. What ensues is an epic thrill-ride that will leave you gasping for breath until the film's final moment.
It seems hilarious to say it, but what this film really emphasises is that the Earth is so big, and a human so small. Much like 2001: A Space Odyssey, Gravity plays out its tiny human saga over gigantic vistas, swooping across whole continents and oceans while these tiny characters try to survive in the heavens. And the world created here is heavenly; it is said in the film that people go into space to escape from the complications of life on Earth and up there, it's hard to even see that there is life below them at all. Up here there are only two souls, machines designed to maintain life crumbling into pieces and two vast forces on either side; Earth and space.
Cuarón has embraced the idea of inertia, both with what happens to his characters and with his ground-breaking photography. Once Sandra Bullock has been cut loose from the satellite, she is catapulted out in to space, spinning around and unable to stop because of the inertia pushing her away. The same as the cloud of debris, once anything starts to move in space, it cannot stop until something gets in its way. The camerawork completely reflects this, swooping and zooming in and around the characters in long tracking shots that take in the tiniest of detail before panning out to reveal the whole world beneath them. The first fifteen minutes of the whole film appears to be just one shot, weaving through these floating figures as the cloud swarms toward them. This is landmark photography; I've never seen anything like this before, nor can I fathom how it was made. Cinema as a medium was invented to confound the viewer and as time has gone on and technology improved, these boundaries should always be pushed, to amaze audiences with the wonders they can produce. Gravity doesn't just amaze, it is awe-inspiring. And if ever there was a film to see in 3D, this is that film.
The film is about life, asking the question of our own significance in the vastness of creation. In a world so developed by technology and modernity, life itself seems so fragile and pathetic, but dwarfed by the scale of creation, technology itself seems small and insignificant. As we see spaceships deteriorating as though made of paper, destroyed by the tiniest flecks of debris, it makes you question how life can survive in the hands of Mother Nature at all. The protection of our planet seems all the more profound, that a thin atmosphere and a layer of water can keep us alive and protected from the barbaric elements beyond our planet. There is great beauty in what we see in Gravity, but great horror also. And like all truly great sci-fi films, at its centre lies the question of what humanity itself actually is, and why it is so important.
More astonishing than all of this though, more significant than its astonishing artistic merit and its layers of meaning and significance, is the wonderful fact that this is a superbly crafted cinematic rollercoaster. Terence Mallick's The Tree Of Life explored humanity and creation in much the same way, but its execution made it almost unwatchable. This is a compelling and exciting thriller; its short runtime, high tension and rocket-fuelled pace make this one of the rare examples of when art-house ideals meets blockbuster scale. This is one of the finest films to have been made about space, one of the most exciting films you'll see for years and will be remembered as one of the greatest films of our time. Gravity is a masterpiece.