Sean K. Cureton

The Cinematic Majesty of Outer Space, Beautiful and Terrifying

In Movie Reviews: 2013 on October 20, 2013 at 12:21 pm

Theatrical Poster

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
3 out of 4 stars

Gravity is a science-fiction thriller from acclaimed Spanish director Alfonso Cuaron, starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as an astronaut and a medical engineer stranded in outer space after an accident leaves their space shuttle damaged beyond immediate repair. Backed by a script which is filled with scientific factoids about the science behind space travel, Cuaron’s new film is an air tight thrill ride that is reminiscent of such sci-fi epics as Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Ridley Scott’s Alien, blending the cinematic majesty of Kubrick’s film with the tension and excitement of Scott’s. Using earth’s orbit as his canvas, Cuaron’s film is breathtakingly beautiful and a technological masterpiece, using state of the art 3D technology to add depth to the protagonists’ plight. Seen in IMAX, the film becomes even more impressive, replicating the experience of being in outer space better than any other sci-fi picture to date. Bottom line, Gravity is one of the best films of the year, and more than deservedly so.

Over the course of the film, the viewer is allowed to follow the experience of medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) from an almost entirely first-person point of view, which is really quiet something to behold from a visual standpoint. Time and time again, Cuaron’s camera follows the point of view of Stone as she hurtles through space, often tumbling a full 360 degrees again and again. While such a choice in cinematic point of view might feel like a gimmick in another director’s hands, Cuaron uses this visual effect with subtlety and an intricate understanding of visual aestheticism. In being able to view much of the film’s more action packed sequences from Stone’s point of view, Cuaron rattles the viewer’s sense of direction, causing them to become as disoriented as his protagonist. While the film might feel like an amusement park ride at times, Cuaron’s presence is nevertheless a palpable element of the film’s fabric, keeping even the most intense shots of space tumbling tethered to the larger cinematic experience.

Beyond the breathtaking cinematography and dizzying first person action sequences, Cuaron’s film is also dramatically affecting, allowing the viewer to become involved with its characters on a personal level, without falling prey to melodramatic characterization or stereotypical archetypes. While only a very little is revealed about Stone as an individual, the film sheds light on just enough of her back story as a grieving single mother to allow her character to develop a connection with the film’s viewers over the course of the film, making the film’s climactic conclusion all the more satisfying. Instead of focusing on the main plot of finding a way back to earth from earth’s orbit, Cuaron allows for multiple scenes where Sandra Bullock is able to find the character that she is portraying beyond the conventions of the thriller genre. In allowing these scenes to occur, Cuaron’s film feels more dramatic than many other Hollywood thrillers, as the protagonists become every bit as important as the action depicted. In this way, Cuaron’s film is much more interesting than the average action thriller, as its purpose becomes much broader than simply stimulating the viewer’s more instinctual reactions towards action centered theatrics.

Alfonso Cuaron’s new film might just be the most cinematically impressive film of the entire year. While working within an already established film genre, Cuaron’s Gravity explores new possibilities in film narrative, using IMAX 3D technology as a means to further cinematic expression. Where other more commercialized Hollywood films employ IMAX 3D as a gimmick, used strategically to generate a larger profit, Gravity uses the same technology to new and greater ends, at times creating sequences that are so minutely orchestrated that the use of the technology is forgotten entirely, allowing the film to be seen outside of the spectacle that is IMAX 3D. Gravity gives new meaning to the term thriller as film genre, invigorating the often laborious and top-heavy cinematic tradition with artistic integrity and thrilling vibrancy. Gravity is a marvel to behold, and might just go down as Alfonso Cuaron’s masterwork.


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