Star-Gazing with Gravity

By Katelyn Stafford

Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity is the season’s first early bird Oscar contender, but a sweep might be a tad difficult as within the entire movie, we see only three characters on screen. The third character isn’t actually a person at all but Space itself, which provides a breathtaking but dizzying backdrop to the movie. For those that steer clear of roller-coasters and get sick during a car ride, this movie will need to be watched with Dramamine as the cinematography perfectly depicts a zero gravity atmosphere with the audience tumbling through space right alongside the characters.

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play Matt Kowalski and Dr. Ryan Stone, respectively, two astronauts trying to return home from a space mission gone awry. George Clooney somehow manages to prove that, yes, it is possible to remain alarmingly charming even when encumbered by a bulky, marshmallow-ed spacesuit and a foggy helmet. Sandra Bullock on the other hand spent a good portion of the movie outside her suit, writhing in her skivvies in weird zero gravity yoga poses, perhaps just to keep the male audience interested. But audience politics aside, it was extremely refreshing to see her in a role where she wasn’t trying to find love in space. You know, like her other movies where she finds love in a hospital, or doomed bus, or with a time-travelling mailbox or in a box with a fox, or on a house with a mouse. She stands (or hurtles through space) in an act of self-reliance, coming into her character arc without the help of her male co-star. Bullock’s performance of a woman confronting the horrors of her past while battling the horrors of her present is flawless. She holds her own against Clooney’s habit of making it look like he just waltzed onto the scene as if bemused that anyone would find space exploration difficult.

The movie opens with an eerie calm that any fans of ER or medical dramas are familiar with. This is the calm before the storm, and the storm does indeed hit no more than five minutes into the movie. The camera sweeps over clusters of lights that glitter from the omnipresent arc of the Earth like diamonds. Even the characters can’t resist taking in the view and much dialogue and camera work is spent making sure you see just how gorgeous this movie is. The camera moves quickly, switching from full 360 degree rolls to point of view shots from the character’s perspective with stomach churning accuracy. It isn’t exactly a shaky-cam style like Cloverfield, it is too precise and masterful for that. Instead it is like being seated in an IMAX documentary where the camera happens to be everywhere at once. This is definitely a movie that is worth the three dollar surcharge for 3D.

Gravity packs in a lot of action into the 90-minute running time so that the story unfolds almost in real-time. There is no shortage of character development even with all that is going on, and both characters are believable. It is easy to forget that these A-listers are just playing around in front of a giant green screen and the stellar performances completely gloss over the ridiculousness of Clooney and Bullock as astronauts. Gravity will surely be an Oscar favorite so I’d jump on the bandwagon now so you can say you totally called all those awards. And as a last note, the film is mostly scientifically accurate, so it is the perfect movie for those friends of yours that like to loudly poke holes and point out the flaws in every movie. They’ll be quiet the entire time.

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