Ever since Gravity‘s release there has been a flood of reviews quickly jumping into the fray to call it “the next 2001: A Space Odyssey” or the like. This is not Stanley Kubrick, nor is it Ron Howard; it’s Alfonso Cuarón, the director of such classics as Children of Men, Y Tu Mamá También and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.
The film starts by showing off its impressive visuals. A wide moving pan over Earth and over to our main characters sets the tone of for a slow, beautiful space drama. The film uses this down time to set up our two main characters. Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock) is a quiet, tense scientist and doctor on her first mission in space. In contrast, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is a relaxed space commander who constantly tells tales of past romantic flames and mishaps. With the amount of dialogue that Clooney has you would figure that he’s the main character, but this is not the case. Once the disasters start kicking in Stone is revealed as the main character.
Behind the action, tension and impressive CGI is a story of a woman who has lost a child. The script seems to fool itself about this though, since the loss of Stone’s child is only brought up about twenty-five minutes into the film. The rest of Stone’s story is sprinkled between fast moving action sequences. The dramatic scenes are a nice breather from how quickly things go wrong in the rest of the film, yet the scenes with Stone left me feeling like it was a very narrow way of looking at a character, and we never got a sense of who she was besides a grieving mother. What on the surface is an action thriller in space really comes down to one woman struggling with her will to live, bringing to mind movies like The Fall, and The Single Man.
Gravity straddles the gap between disaster movie and a dramatic character piece. It features beautiful visuals and action scenes that draw the audience in, perfectly paired with Sandra Bullock’s solid acting, which held together the dramatic elements of the film.