Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film is Gravity, a space thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. The plot centers on the efforts of Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (played by George Clooney), as surviving astronauts trying to get back to Earth after their space shuttle gets destroyed by debris. Kowalski is a down-to-Earth American who feels at ease in outer space and responds much better to the space station chaos than Stone. Kowalski is clearly a veteran astronaut who has ample experience with space missions and tries to comfort Stone while giving her instructions on how to get back home. Despite the differences in their lives back on Earth, Kowalski and Stone are comfortable in each others’ presence, and Cuarón provides us with a dialogue between the two that is an interesting reflection of what two humans far from planet Earth talk about when neither of them thinks they will ever see home again. When she thinks she is in her final hour, Stone opens up pretty quickly to Kowalski about her emotional life in Illinois and how she came to become an astronaut. Kowalski, on the other hand, does not seem the slightest bit phased about the fact that he will probably never see the light of day again. This provides for an interesting dynamic between the two astronauts who must work together if they are to make it out alive.
The film’s plot is not bad by any means, but it is certainly not the most riveting part of Gravity. Having seen this film in IMAX 3D, which is a format I rarely dish out the $20 for, I found the production to be mind-blowing. When I walked out of the theatre I felt the last 90 minutes were better defined as an experience than as seeing a film at the cinema. Gravity redefines the way we view motion picture because of how intimate Cuarón makes the film. As the viewer you feel you are inside Sandra Bullock’s astronaut suit with her during most of the film. My heart rate literally rose with hers, and I felt my body temperature change depending on whether she was feeling hot or cold in the film. The production was so moving it brought tears to my eyes on more than a few occasions.
Cuarón makes outer space look so beautiful, yet so mysterious, and I couldn’t help drawing comparisons between the special effects in Gravity and those Stanley Kubrick used 45 years earlier in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I was so caught up in the details of the scenery and the overall production of the IMAX experience that my mind drifted from the actual storyline and dialogue, into what sights and sounds Cuarón would entertain me with next.
In a way Gravity gave me new found faith in humanity. When Stone enters the Chinese, and then Russian space vessels, she frantically searches for a manual that will help save her life and makes calls to Earth from both vessels in the hopes that someone on the other line will understand her. Space transcends culture: when a human being is stuck without oxygen or transportation thousands of miles from Earth, all social differences that exist on Earth are forgotten. There are of course many ways to interpret Stone’s mission to get back to Earth, but I thought that Cuarón’s incorporation of the Chinese and Russian shuttles was symbolic in this sense.
It has been difficult articulating the film, and so I encourage anyone considering seeing it to do so, and if possible view in IMAX 3D. Cuarón is one of the greatest directors of all time, and he proved to the cinema world that he still possesses a rare talent to move society with Gravity.