It begins with a little reminder that “life in space is impossible”. We find ourselves in a literal vacuum as we float miles above the Earth, with only four voices for company. We get an awe-inspiring view of the big, blue marble called Earth, before our main players come into view: medical engineer Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and mission commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney).
With the camera seemingly floating in zero gravity together with the astronauts, you are right alongside them, sharing their discomfort, claustrophobia and most of all, awe. It’s an astounding technical achievement, the illusion largely attained with, incredibly, practical effects.
It’s all a bit like floating in a really large swimming pool, and you can almost understand the sentiment when Stone says: “The silence. I could get used to it.”
The antithetical personalities of Stone and Kowalski are smoothly set up – the former quiet and serious, the latter chattering away with his endless anecdotes and his playful Apollo 13 references: “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission.” Then of course, things start to go terribly, horrifically wrong. It’s a remarkable sequence, some of it showcased in the trailer, that seems to go on forever and will leave you gripping your armrests. I literally found it hard to breathe at times.
It ends with Stone and Kowalski set adrift in space, their fellow astronauts dead, their spaceship disabled. It’s at this point that Gravity turns, if you want to be terribly reductionist, into a creature feature with space as the monster. Except that this time, it’s not some CGI monster menacing our protagonists – it’s a very real enemy, and one we cannot hope to defeat.
Clooney may be the superstar, but it’s Bullock who emerges as the true star of the show. “What do I do?” asks Stone in a panic. Kowalski’s answer speaks volumes: “You’re going to have to learn to let go.” And so it goes, as she surrenders herself to space.
It’s a restrained, brilliant performance from the Oscar-winner, and she does a fine job of carrying the movie. When Stone quietly says, “I would say a prayer for myself, but no one ever taught me how”, you feel every bit of her fear and anguish. Even when she goes into full blown meltdown, it’s never overdone or hysterical.
What do you do when you are truly alone? If it’s true that we are like ants in the cosmos, then how much do our lives really matter in the grand scheme of things? We’ve reached for the stars and we’ve gotten there – but do we even belong there in the first place? These are the questions that will weigh upon you long after this awesome, awe-inspiring movie ends.
This Gravity review can only conclude that if you only watch one more movie this year, make it Gravity.
Gravity opens in Singapore on Thursday. If you can’t wait and want a taste of what the movie is about, check out the trailer here.
What do you think of Gravity? Watch it and tell us what you think!