Written by J.T. Johnson
If director Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” doesn’t sweep up at the Academy Awards, then something is terribly wrong with the Oscars. This is the rare original thriller that keeps audiences on the edge of their seats from beginning to end. Sandra Bullock better also get the nomination for Best Actress as the audience roots for her character the whole way.
Set entirely in space, Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) is working on the Hubble Space Telescope. Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) muses about retiring from space flight and narrowly missing the record for spacewalking. Meanwhile, engineer Shariff (Paul Sharma) is just excited about being in space for the first time.
Suddenly, they get the call from Mission Control that debris from a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite has gone awry. It has caused a chain reaction that has destroyed several satellites and the debris is heading straight their way. Before they know it, they are bombarded by the space junk with Ryan and Matt as the only survivors stranded in Earth’s orbit.
This is just the beginning of their trials as they must figure out a way to get back to Earth safely. Along the way, the audience learns more about Ryan and Matt as the more experienced astronaut tries to keep the green around the gills Ryan under control. This is the surprising aspect of the movie.
The characters feel just as real as the catastrophe that they have been thrown into and the chemistry between Clooney and Bullock comes naturally. These are two acting veterans that take their roles to whole new levels just by being cast in the parts. This is especially true of Bullock who once again shows a wide range that is rarely tapped into by Hollywood.
Ryan feels moments of sheer panic while at the same time she manages to find the control necessary to make it forward while also having some humorous “you have got to be kidding me” moments. Bullock seamlessly transitions from one emotion to the next with no special acting tricks or gimmicks. While the rest of the movie is a wonder to behold, Bullock proves that she has the right stuff to take on this role.
Speaking of the other wonders found within the movie, the special effects are some of the best in the business. With all of the special effects movies in the world today, Cuarón has made a movie that finally has audiences wondering just how in the world he did it. Shot after shot seamlessly threads the narrative together while the special effects teams make everything look spot on in a zero gravity environment.
Whether it’s the countless spacewalks or Ryan navigating through the International Space Station, nothing looks faked. There are even scenes where Cuarón reminds audiences that there is no sound in space. Sometimes, those scenes are more deafening than those with sound as it really shows how stranded the two astronauts are in this situation.
There are minor things in the film that could be pointed out, such as the scientific errors pointed out by tweets from famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson. Then again, people have to remember that Tyson also took director James Cameron to task over the incorrect star field featured in “Titanic”. Also, any audience members who find the small scientific fallacies too distracting could remember that it is just a movie.
With only two and a half months left in the year, chances are that “Gravity” will be the true big winner of the year. It is an outstanding film with brilliant special effects. More importantly, those effects are put together by a thrilling story with outstanding performances from its two main leads, especially Bullock.