Gravity is one of few films this year that I didn't plan to or want to see though I knew it was going to be a critic's must-go. My aversion was largely founded on the lack of information I could find about it outside of the trailer. It was hard to picture what the film was going to be like when your premise is so straightforward: a couple of astronauts get in trouble while servicing a telescope in space and need to find some alternative way home.
In general, I prefer movies that has a more interesting plot, complex characters and witty/memorable dialogues. Very rarely do I watch a film when its main selling point is the visuals, and based on the trailer, that was my initial impression of what this film will be mostly about.
However days since its release I have been told again and again that it is amazing, a must-watch, and other forms of praise generally reserved for legendary films like Citizen Kane, Casablanca and 2001: A Space Odyssey. So eventually I gave in to peer pressure and watched it. And boy am I glad I did see it in the end!
Gravity is a space thriller that invites you to immerse yourself in the scenario. It is an experience more than it is a story. There is no good guy versus bad guy, no superpower or romantic tension between the main characters, and I would even argue there is no message. The amount of realism created through masterful cinematography is very impressive; you really feel as though this could happen, or that it is happening. Both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney playing the main astronauts are exactly what this show needed, even though majority of the time it is about Bullock's experience since her character isn't a NASA astronaut.
There is also some existential undertones that makes you appreciate the substance of things, objects in space. It is a film that lets you dive as deep as you want into the vacuum, interpret the symbolism scattered throughout the film however you want, and come to any conclusion you want with regards to fear, purpose, hope and humanity.
There are a few points where the symbolism is too heavy-handed, they do take some liberties with the science of space for dramatic effects, and a couple of scenes and plot conveniences do smell of a Hollywood studio. But overall, it is a very novel and refreshing experience after watching dozens of 'textbook' films that come out of the US like clockwork. And Sandra Bullock is still so youthful and cute even though she's bordering 50!
However there isn't much watch-at-home value; it doesn't have the same visual effectiveness on a TV or laptop screen, and unless you have a high-end sound system in your home theatre, a lot of the dialogue and sound effects are hard to catch. A large portion of this film does reek of A Space Odyssey. Maybe that's on purpose or as a homage to it, but for me it was distracting because I don't think this film holds up to the vision of that other film despite having improved technology to generate the realism.
Having said that, I would easily put this film in the top three I have seen this year, I highly recommend it to anyone who likes stargazing and space-related things, and like Finding Nemo, it is a film you really do need to watch on the big screen.
8.5 / 10.0