DEMAND ON VIEWER mild
OVERALL Highly Recommended for all ages!
Two aspects of this film stand out off the top: the sound, and the visuals. The soundtrack and sound editing, the with excellent production of 3D elements to bring the viewer out into space like no film about this subject ever has.
The sound comes in waves, fading in from nothing, swelling to a crescendo, then suddenly dropping to silence. The effect is to highlight and emphasize the silence, and also the way objects careen at unthinkable speeds through that silent void. The characters all point to the silence in the dialogue; the sound thus underpins this important theme.
And if there ever was a film to see in 3D, this is the one. It takes you out into space and gives you a picture of earth, impossible to describe in words. By turns you hover over continents, oceans, cities, mountain ranges. It feels as if you are actually looking down on their vast immensity. 3D often feels to me like a gratuitous use of media/technology toys; something for kids to do on a rainy day. Not so this film. The dimensionally enhanced views are used in a restrained way; to illuminate the feeling of being untethered from earth and from its gravity.
And now for the story. It is a deceptively simple one. Space engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first shuttle mission; her colleague Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is a calm veteran with a remarkably reassuring voice. They are hit by debris and must make their way back to the earth's surface.
We are given a way in to the story through Dr. Stone's eyes, as we get queasy seeing the way the world so easily turns upside and out of control with no gravity. At first she shudders and shakes at the slightest movement. We feel her disequilibrium and near motion sickness as she is flung about and rotated around whatever she happens to be holding onto. With her we cling to Kowalski's expertise as he guides their actions.
Instead of falling into the usual genre devices of aliens as the villains, here it is simply an accidental barrage of debris, smashing into them at lethal speeds, and the inner fight against panic and despair that ensues. (Again the sound: a juxtaposition of the explosions and impact with deafening silence is memorable and a marked contrast to the usual overwrought sound effects of action films.)
It is this inner story that makes the film. Science fiction and space stories are often delinquent in this most critical area: whether the story connects in a real way to other human beings. Here we have a profound and emotional struggle going on simultaneous with the external threat, and it draws us into the heart of the main character.
In Gravity the vastness of space is shown to be both intimidating and beautiful; but it is Earth that comes out as the victor of the heart. "Thank you," Dr. Ryan whispers, clutching mud in her hand. The alien landscape she has encountered mirrors the newly adopted inner landscape she has now found. She is now a colossal figure, whereas in space she was tiny, both in comparison to what was surrounding her, and in the way she felt inside.
When Dr. Stone finally makes it into the safety of the space station, and removes her suit, the shock of seeing her body is visceral and stimulating, in way that evokes an appreciation of all the earthly elements of being human; flesh, muscles, strength and agility in arms and legs. When she gets to earth, we get to see this stripping down to the body again. The meaning here is unmistakable: return to earth, to the body.
Paradoxically, this movie also heightens our appreciation of space exploration, but by a counter-intuitive method. Just as dancers learn to concentrate on the ground and the feeling of weight and gravity in order to learn to jump higher, perhaps the focus on earth and our foundations will lead us out into space again.
|The athletic figure of Sandra Bullock is shot gracefully in zero-g as well as underwater.|