There is a moment in Gravity when Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), low on oxygen and careening into a depthless abyss of space, struggles to hold on to a tether. It is at this juncture that viewers receive a rush of adrenalin that continues to arrive in short jolts throughout the course of the film.
Indeed, the film entrenches the fragility of life by amplifying the most mundane acts that keep us alive, resulting in a visceral, meditative, visually sumptuous adventure that never ceases to be anything short of a masterpiece.
It took a long time for Gravity to be made - many actors came and went. On paper, the screenplay by Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron and his son, Jonas, is an intriguing, but risky, proposition: While on an expedition, Dr Stone and Commander Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) are set adrift in space after a catastrophic accident destroys their space station. It is a premise that could go either way.
The problem with blockbusters nowadays is that directors often take the "go big or go home" route, favouring visual spectacle over story.
But Cuaron, an auteur known for his impressive, long single-takes (used to great effect in his 2006 science-fiction film Children Of Men) and visual flourishes, rightly focuses on the drama and elevates it with impeccable craftsmanship.
The nifty editing melds emotion and impressive visuals to great effect, while the cinematography is breathtakingly realistic. More noteworthy is the score by Steven Price that is not only bone-chilling, but also incredibly moving.
It is easy to understand why this film took a long time to be made: Finding the right actors both skilful and bankable enough to carry the expensive film, which has very little dialogue, was of the essence. That said, Bullock and Clooney give brilliant performances, which elevate the film beyond its genre trappings.
A film that fully realises the potential of its screenplay, Gravity is an intelligently written, immersive cinematic experience that is one of the best films of the year so far.
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