Movie review – Gravity: Pure terror in deep space

2013-10-20 06:00

Film: Gravity (Nu Metro)

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Featuring: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney

Rating: 9/10

That part of my brain housing memories from my ancestors’ days frolicking around what is now Maropeng shuddered as the enormity of Gravity unfolded.

That part of my brain knows that survival in space is impossible. It is a place of gods, not of people. Or rather, these days it is a place of debris. It also totally quashed that last bit of me that thought being an astronaut would be cool. I was gripped by pure, cold, penetrating fear.

Alfonso Cuarón has made something unique, using methods that haven’t been tried before, to recreate a classically themed story in a place so hostile it is a void.

The story is one we have seen before – most recently in Danny Boyle’s brilliant 127 Hours with James Franco.

Years ago, Tom Hanks faced his demons in Castaway and now Sandra Bullock joins these two. With one Oscar under her belt, this is likely to lead to another nomination at the very least.

Bullock is Ryan Stone, a space rookie who, along with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is untethered from the space vessel when debris from a broken-up satellite hits them. They are literally thrown into deep space. Matt has a little juice left in a jet pack to get them to the international space station, but their troubles have only just begun.

In long shots, which are Cuarón’s trademark, he shoots the audience into space, where there is no air, where all is inert, where you realise the necessity of gravity to survival. But beyond all that, there is another threat – debris.

Every single thing that has ever been sent up into space, every bit of satellite that has dropped off, orbits the earth at high speed and collisions in space create more rapidly spinning debris. It seems we have turned not only the earth into a trash heap, but the space around it too.

Aside from this being a film about one woman’s fight for survival in a place where life is impossible, and it touching on the issue of just how much rubbish we create – it is the film-making techniques that really drive the wow factor.

Gravity is a hybrid of live action, computer animation and CGI, with sets, backgrounds and even costumes made digitally. Some scenes are shot with Bullock being transformed into a “puppet”, while in others she is inside a light box – like for the terrifying scene in which she spins uncontrollably through space.

For terrestrial creatures like you and I, Gravity is real horror. See it on the big screen, see it in 3D and if you’ve bought one of Richard Branson’s tickets for a trip to space, hope that he pays refunds.

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