I decided to watch “Gravity” after I heard claims that it is the best film about outer space that has ever been released on screen. I have my own, rather conservative opinion about the best space films; my personal list includes such masterpieces as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “Solaris,” “Dune,” and the original “Star Wars” trilogy, of course (I think no chart about space films can omit these pictures by George Lucas). Spoiled by world famous films, I decided to take a glance at the newborn candidate to my list, and went to the cinema.
The plot develops around a pair of astronauts who were repairing the Hubble Telescope on its orbit; their space shuttle collided with space trash, and out of the entire crew, only two survived: Matt Kowalski and Ryan Stone. The destruction caused by the accident did not allow them to return to Earth; Kowalski makes a desperate decision to reach the International Space Station using their manned maneuvering units (or, simply saying, jet packs. The ISS is abandoned because of a similar accident with space trash; the only hope for the astronauts is the old shuttle on board of ISS. However, Kowalski dies as he approaches the station, and Stone manages to fix the shuttle and return to Earth.
“Gravity” by Alfonso Cuaron is a thriller that manages to pump up the tension by many artistic means at once: people in an isolated environment, hopelessness of the situation, a hostile environment, and of course the perfect actors’ play—George Clooney (Matt Kowalski) and Sandra Bullock (Ryan Stone). In many reviews, the film has been characterized as a chamber thriller, or a ‘claustrophobic’ thriller; I would like to disagree with this definition because of one obstacle that prevents me from perceiving “Gravity” as a claustrophobia-causing film: the space. Maybe I am agoraphobic, but the vastness of space around Kowalski and Stone, the understanding that in the entire Universe nobody can save or help them, total and complete loneliness of a tiny human being in the endless ocean of space—this is what gave me chills while watching the film. Somehow Cuaron managed to create and convey the sensation of overwhelming emptiness—and this is the most remarkable fact about “Gravity.”
As I have already mentioned, the atmosphere of the film is breathtaking. It is impossible to look away from the screen, because every little detail is important and helps to engage the audience deeper into the shown situation. I especially liked how Bullock managed to convey all her emotions mostly with the help of her breath: its intensity and depth aided the audience in understanding what Stone was feeling like better than any traditional actors’ means. As for Clooney, his protagonist sometimes looked too calm, considering the situation: “Lost in space? No problem!” But in general, his performance also was convincing and satisfactory.
I disliked only two moments in “Gravity,” and both of them are obvious even for those who got an F in physics or astronomy at school. The first of them refers to the crazy rescue plan suggested by Kowalski. In reality, the Hubble Telescope is located 559 kilometers above the equator, whereas the ISS hangs on the height of 418.3 kilometers above Russia. Such distances require even spacecrafts to refuel, while Kowalski and Stone manage to cover it using only jet packs. Another drawback that I noticed was the helmets of the astronauts’ spacesuits. In the film, they are completely transparent, whereas real spacesuits have mirror-reflecting helmets, which prevent their eyes from blindness and skin from burns. I understand that the helmets’ transparency was caused by the necessity to show the astronauts’ emotions, but still this fact instills a feeling of imperfection. Other minor defects that attentive viewers can possibly notice do not spoil the atmosphere.
Overall, I would like to say the film has definitely supplemented my personal collection of favorite space films. The atmosphere of desolation and loneliness that Alfonso Cuaron managed to create, the environment, and the situation in which the main characters have found themselves causes a truly thrilling effect. Even minor discrepancies do not spoil the general impression. Therefore, I would like to strongly recommend watching “Gravity” to all who read this review.