The plot of Gravity is simple enough: Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a biomedical engineer, and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are updating and installing new systems on the Hubble Space Telescope. This is Stone's first spacewalk, while it is to be Kowalski's last before retirement. Everything goes horribly wrong when debris from a Russian satellite starts a chain reaction of sorts, creating more debris. The junk slams into the astronauts, destroying their shuttle. Stone's tether is cut. She is adrift. Stone and Kowalski must find a way to return to safety, to Earth.
I adore science fiction. I haven't seen nearly enough, obviously, and there are several glaring omissions from my film list, but anything set in space, I'm there. I don't think I've been this enthralled since Duncan Jones' Moon. In Gravity, Cuarón is playing with some deep-seated, primal fears here - the fear of being cut-off, alone, lost, the darkness. The film alternately makes use of unnerving silence, where all we can hear is the panicked breathing of Ryan Stone, whilst at other times the score reaches a panic inducing, thunderous crescendo. At other times still, the score feels peaceful, as if drifting in a calm ocean. The soundtrack of the film altogether plays a huge part in heightening and relieving the tension.
The cinematography, besides being absolutely stunning, perfectly creates the feeling of being weightless, in a zero-g environment. Continuously floating, Cuarón and DoP Emmanuel Lubezki make use of extremely long takes, so the whole thing feels absolutely hypnotic. Fewer cuts do more to build the tension and the stress levels than continuous fast cuts ever would in a film like this (take note Hollywood). There was simply no need. I realise I'm talking a lot about the film technically but that is simply because everything is so perfectly constructed to build up an absolutely gripping atmosphere.
George Clooney is great in this - he absolutely pulls off the air of the experienced, laid-back, yet commanding veteran. He feels infinitely trust-worthy, as if everything will be fine as long as you listen to him. But this film is all about Sandra Bullock. I've never yet cried in a Bullock movie, but this one brought a few tears to my eyes. She knocks it out of the park, with an emotionally charged, powerhouse performance. Ryan Stone is our identifier. Frightened, and on her first spacewalk, she feels unprepared for being in space, let alone dealing with such disaster! We are invested her from the beginning. We watch her grow and develop, and watch the strength that was always there return to her.
I can't say anything more without spoiling things. Whether or not you see it in IMAX 3D, Gravity will not let you go. It is a triumph, an emotional experience, that I won't forget anytime soon. You'll be wanting to see it again before the credits have finished rolling.