Gravity: a tour de force

Christian Butler

Topics Culture

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In a time of overstuffed, overblown blockbusters, thrown together by over-the-hill directors, comes Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, Gravity – a masterwork by Mexico’s finest auteur that blows your mind several times over in a delirious and yet concise 90 minutes.

The film casts George Clooney and Sandra Bullock as two astronauts who are set adrift in space following the destruction of their shuttle. This film doesn’t mess around: whereas in Apollo 13 it took Houston nearly an hour to have a problem, all hell breaks loose in Gravity’s opening shot.

And what an opening shot. Like a space-set equivalent of the opening of Boogie Nights, the camera rolls for an audacious quarter-of-an-hour. The image of our heroes floating in and out of shot, the blue planet spinning beneath them as they’re cast into the great beyond, makes for one of the most horrific sequences I’ve ever seen at the cinema – all unfolding without a single cut.

Its superb screenplay is defined by a relentless Murphy’s Law, screwing with the characters in some of the most nail-biting life-or-death moments ever to grace the screen. Amid the constant tension there is a little unpretentious philosophy, some profoundly joyful moments, and monologue where Sandra Bullock barks like a dog (Oscar-worthy in this reviewer’s opinion). It’s all cast in cinematography of an eye-popping scale and beauty, and 3D effects that, for once, only enhance the experience.

The film is so good it almost trivialises all other space movies that have come before it. That is except for the totemic 2001: A Space Odyssey, to which this film has been inevitably compared. Though I’m not yet convinced Cuarón’s filmography makes him the new Kubrick, Gravity is a good place to start.

A flawless film.

Christian Butler is a writer and musician based in London.

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