Gravity is another one of those films that people will tell you that you have to watch on a big screen in order to appreciate, but which I saw on a plane recently, and yet still enjoyed.
I had gone into it with a number of misconceptions. For one, I had the idea that it was a science-fiction movie. This isn’t really true, except by the most technical definition – it is fictional, and it deals largely with issues of science. Now, I’m not cognizant of the plausibility of the science displayed, but the movie presents itself as a series of events which could conceivably take place with the space travel / survival technology in current use today.
Second, I had the idea for some reason that the movie would present a generally antagonistic relationship between the two big stars – Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Other than a little tension at the start, this isn’t true either.
Finally, I had it in my head Gravity was quite a long movie. In truth, it was just over an hour and a half. This was a good length for a story that for the most part is just two characters floating in space, and in which (some SPOILERS, from here on) for a significant portion, is just one character.
And yet the film manages to keep things moving at a good clip. There’s none of the 2001: A Space Odyssey vibe one might have expected, such as lingering slow shots of the planet or the astronauts just floating around. Rather, it’s highly tense and edgy, as we watch a sudden disaster befall a space shuttle crew, with its two survivors left to desperately find a way to get back to earth (Clooney is the mission commander, Bullock is the inexperienced specialist).
Sandra Bullock carries the lion’s share of the acting weight here, as her character is really the one that we follow. She does a good job playing someone relatively unspectacular dealing with an extremely difficult situation, with just enough backstory to give her some emotional drama to play, but not too much to make it contrived. George Clooney is (literally) a reassuring, familiar presence in the story – somehow having a famous voice play the largely unseen role helps to bring out the feeling of security that his presence brings to Bullock’s less confident character.
There are few weaknesses in the movie. The fact that the story contrives to put Bullock outside of any ship at the moment that the deadly debris flies by the second time is only slightly obvious. Overall, it’s a minimalist, well-told story of survival. You wouldn’t want every movie to be like this, but having one once in a while isn’t a bad thing.