Alfonso Cuarón is an excellent director. It’s hard to argue with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban or Children of Men as extraordinary films. With Gravity, he’s trying to up the ante even further. Technically unprecedented, and yet it is not the remarkable film that I expected.
There are precisely six humans who make an appearance in this film. Three are voices on the other end of a radio, one is a voice and a special effect in the background of a few shots, one you get to see his face for a couple of scenes through a helmet, and the last one is Sandra Bullock, who is the central character. She’s a rookie astronaut working on the Hubble during a Space Shuttle mission that goes unbelievably awry. George Clooney does some nice (mostly voice only) work as Bullock’s mentor. Bullock, on the other hand, acts her little heart out. Is this an Oscar contender performance? I don’t know. Maybe. But it was good.
There are some people who are in awe over how accurate the film is… and others who decry every last inconsistency. For me, I fall somewhere in between. I thought the nature of the disaster was a little too convenient. I thought the placement in identical orbits of all of stepping stones Bullock and Clooney take to attempt a self-rescue was also way too convenient. I get that the point is that they (and Bullock in particular) have to do this alone, because space is scary. But it still dropped me out of the film for a bit.
That said, watching these spacewalking scenes with the camera swooping around for these crazy-long single shots, I was mesmerized. Even when the disaster occurs early on, and I know there’s a good eighty minutes of film left, so our hero can’t just die, the tension was crazy. So, kudos for that. (Also, I saw it in IMAX 3D, which works. Oh, how it works.)
But, overall, the sparseness of the cast and the simplicity of the plot kept this film firmly in the realm of very good and not great.