Gravity is weightless but groundbreaking 3-D entertainment, seamlessly synchronizing art and science and should orbit Oscar's shortlist of the year's best. I watched nearly 500 set of lips mouth the word "wow" as they exited the premiere of Gravity at September's Toronto International Film Festival.
Gravity's riveting 13-minute opening sequence immediately sets the audience 600 kilometers into the silent, terrifying vastness above Earth. Then the tiniest blip appears in the far-off distance, and as it slowly floats closer to the screen, we eventually see that it is astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) swimming through space.
If the spectacle doesn't grab you, the story will. There is no villain in Gravity--no evil computer, no aliens. Instead, the antagonist is nature itself: the weightless, soundless nothingness of space, and therein lies the film's genius. We are reminded that humans may never truly tame space, only ride its waves. In director Alfonso Cuaron's masterpiece, we're struck by space's wonder and mystery, but we also discover the terror of not being tethered to humanity. When we hear an intense firestorm of space debris hurtling in Ryan Stone's direction, we gradually tense up as she whispers, "No," followed by another, louder "No," and a rapid-fire scream of "No, no, no, no, no, no!" What follows is pure cinematic spectacle.
"There was a lot of careful planning and calculating in all of this," director Cuaron told Boise Weekly at TIFF. "Honestly, there was no technology that existed to do many of these shots."
Cuaron, who found critical acclaim with 2004's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (the best of the series) and 2006's Children of Men, helped develop never-before-used technology for Gravity's technical wonder. But Cuaron reserved his highest praise for his star.
"A huge portion of Sandra's performance was behind [her astronaut helmet's] visor," Cuaron told BW. "And yet, she holds the film and our hearts, all through those amazing eyes."
Bullock told BW that the script and arduous filming stretched her Oscar-winning talents to new horizons.
"It scared me on every single level," said Bullock. "But I appreciate not being in my comfort zone. It unlocks those things that scare you, frustrate you, make you so insecure, and it requires you to dig even deeper."
In a light moment following the TIFF premiere, Bullock admitted to an ironic dread.
"I'm deathly afraid of flying," she said with a familiar smile. "It's my greatest fear."
But fly she does, in the performance of her career. The character of Ryan Stone is fully realized in Bullock's portrayal of an astronaut-mother who experiences loss, which only manifests an act of courage to return to Earth, which only appears as an unattainable big blue marble through much of the film.
So here it is folks: the big, wonderful film you've been waiting for. And yes, Gravity is well worth the weight.