Alfonso Cuarón is without doubt one of our generations most ambitious and talented directors, whose latest film ‘Gravity’ has solidified him as a premiere auteur of the cinema, that is if his last film “Children of Men” didn’t already have you convinced.
The signs were there from the start.
A Mexican director, Cuarón made his English debut in 1995 with a retelling of the Edwardian classic, “A Little Princess” which reinvigorated new life into the tale of a young girl left at the mercy of a miserable, unforgiving, and demanding headmistress after the sudden death of her father. He turned what could have been a drab child’s tale into an intoxicating rich and exotic affair of the heart and imagination.
He followed this up with another adaptation of a classic, “Great Expectations” which starred Ethan Hawke, and featured an immaculate performance by Anne Bancroft, as well as Gwyneth Paltrow at the height of her 90s babe-ness. The film took the Dickensian tale of love lost and greed into a contemporary tale with equal visual splendor.
His latest film “Gravity”, however, is a film larger in scope than any of his previous (including “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of the Azkaban”), whilst also being perhaps the most simple in its premise.
Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a first time astronaut sent by NASA to install new technologies onto the Hubble Space Telescope before the mission is rudely interrupted by a massive debris storm that wipes out not only her ride home, but what seems to be our entire world built in space. It’s a nail-biter of a film that follows her minute by minute as she quickly comes to grips with her will to survive.
With a little encouragement from a rowdy veteran astronaut (played by George Clooney) she is able to get her wits about her, even as she is hurled through space time and time again.
Bullock plays Dr. Stone with a brilliance never before captured from the Hollywood icon even after winning her Best Actress Oscar for 2009’s The Blind Side. Bullock is able to capture the raw emotion of a woman catapulted into the abyss. She experiences it all: fear, sadness, overwhelming happiness, excitement, delirium, panic, loss, and joy. It’s a spectrum of emotion that very few actresses get to take on, and in turn, can pull of with half as much success.
And damn does she look good. At 49, her body is as fit and toned as ever while her chiseled face is beautifully defined by the stark illumination of space giving us a unique perspective on the star we rarely get to see (she also really suits that short hair).
What is most exciting about “Gravity” is that while it could easily have been a different movie, Cuarón ensures the universality of its themes, and exhibits an unnerving sensibility to let us wait, and sit, and ponder the moment. After a calamity of events, Bullock makes it into the International Space Station and for a good minute we watch as she retreats into her body like a fetus and floats in space like a unborn baby in a womb. It’s moments like this that bring brilliance to what is undoubtedly Cuarón’s masterpiece.
And while there are plenty of space movies, and good ones at that, this one needs to top the list of those released in the past decade, and comes a close second to the epitome of all movies in space- Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which in itself is a mighty amazing feat.
Very rarely do films set in space capture the scope of themes and the realism needed to convey the heaviness of life in space. Its no joke, and it’s done without the presence of creepy extra terrestrials or intimidating other-world space craft. When it comes down to it, the most dangerous thing Ryan Stone faces is the presence of an almost non-presence- that of “Gravity” an invisible force that keeps us planted on the ground, and without can turn a single bolt into a deadly weapon that can obliterate even the most expensive and sophisticated technology we have under our belt.
This film makes you think, and ultimately that’s what movie-going is about. We enjoyed this film thoroughly, and expect to see this film as a strong contender at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony. In fact, I can smell tough competition already between Bullock and Blanchett for the coveted Best Actress win. Can Bullock pull a second win? She sure as hell deserves it. Also expect Cuarón in contention for Director, and his long-time cinematographer Emmanuelle Lubezki (“A Little Princess”, “Sleepy Hollow“, “Children of Men”, “The Tree of Life“) for his very first win.
A rare gem that will go unmatched for decades to come. See this film!!
+until next time+