Alfonso Cuarón has once again demonstrated what an exciting, varied and adaptable director he is. The 51 year old Mexican made a name for himself with Y Tu Mamá También, a steamy drama involving group-sex, and went on to direct projects as diverse as Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and P.D. James adaptation Children of Men. Now he has crafted a beautiful, tense and soul-searching sci-fi epic. Gravity, whilst not perfect, is a dizzying spectacle and a tremendously accomplished work.
Aside from Harry Potter, this is probably Cuarón’s most accessible and commercially bankable offering. Gravity has already broken box office records in the States and is set to become one of the biggest movies of the year.
The film follows a medical-engineer/astronaut (Sandra Bullock) as she attempts to survive a series of catastrophic events whilst working in space. Her team (including a typically charming George Clooney) struggle around her as their project is blown apart, quite literally, by flying debris. Soon, she is on her own, in space, with very little in way of rescources or immediate help.
Sandra Bullock has always been an excellent actor but she has made some rather poor movies (including the one she won as Oscar for, The Blind Side). Though her presence in the film comes second to that of the director (Cuarón is the real star here), it is still refreshing to see her in a more mature and serious setting. Of course, she did have an Oscar-begging turn in Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but that’s best left forgotten.
Because, as we know, sound cannot travel in space, the film’s score makes up for the lack of diegetic sound and is more-or-less constant throughout. A persistent music score can sometimes work against a movie, but British composer Stephen Prince controls it perfectly. The ending especially is made all the more powerful by his rousing themes.
At times Gravity does feel a little gimmicky, and the continual issues our hero is faced with occasionally makes it feel like a videogame than a narrative feature. The overwhelming experience, however, is still raised far and above many action blockbusters. This is good, solid, and frequently remarkable entertainment. And make sure you see it in the cinema and not on DVD on a laptop in a year’s time. It deserves a big screen.
Gravity (2013), directed by Alfonso Cuarón, plays as a gala screening at the BFI London Film Festival later today. It is released in UK cinemas on 8 November by Warner Bros. Pictures, Certificate 12A.