Gravity  was the film that catapulted director Alfonso Cuarón of Children of Men fame further into the spotlight as a new science fiction thriller that went where no astronaut had hoped to go before: lost in the depths of space. The story follows medical engineer/Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) after high-speed debris strikes their vessel and leaves them stranded in the solar system.
The Space Between Us: It is not uncommon for a setting to become one of the central characters in a movie, but with Gravity, audiences get familiar with the foreboding tension and added conflict that the empty voids of darkness supply for the leading protagonists—pitting them against life-threatening situations that would almost make it seem that space itself is the antagonist of the whole film. The outstanding visual effects are responsible for creating the palpable sense of realism. Very few humans have experienced the opportunity to go into outer space, but Gravity replicates the fiery velocity of solar bodies, light sense of weightlessness, and mysterious stillness of the Milky Way in a manner that seems so natural, without an over-abundance of CGI giving off an artificial quality that makes it appear you are actually watching a video game playthrough instead of a film.
For the Love of Humanity: Speaking of the characters, casting for Gravity was done with careful consideration to select actors that could portray relatable, normal-looking space station denizens and not highly glamorized superstars dressed in an astronaut’s suit. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock emanate a visible chemistry with their character foils: Clooney’s character is very confident and treats space like his second home because of how long he’s been in the field, while Bullock’s character is apprehensive about her first venture as part of a mission expedition. Although Clooney does not appear in the film for a significant portion of time, his presence still makes an impact on the story and his character relations. Bullock effortlessly carries the film and is able to have the audience live vicariously through her as she projects a vulnerable yet determined demeanor.
Glimpses into a Galaxy: Gravity’s cinematography is very clean-cut and polished. There are no sloppily-tailored scenes that clutter the picture as a whole. This, in part, has to do with Cuarón’s use of single-shot sequences to project a smooth flowing stream of events devoid of choppy cuts to signify a different scene or another angle of the same shot. A prominent example is a 10-minute single-shot scene at the beginning of Gravity that shows the expedition crew during a spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope while also establishing character traits and introducing the audience to the new environment. The cinematography follows the same fluid, steady movement depicted during zero-gravity scenes in which the astronauts freely spin and swim through the solar system, creating a continual motif of universal connection.
Solar Symphonies: As far as the film score is concerned, composer Steven Price masterfully, but subtly, orchestrated a pulsating rhythm that can be utterly silent and overwhelmingly powerful at the same time. The score is very omnipotent—completely aware of the emotional situations and the different environments in which Gravity transports its characters. Sounds that dwell in the dark corners of space manifest a chillingly poignant reverb that connotes feelings of isolation, despair, and the unknown. The soundtrack is also very textural and takes into consideration the sound variants that can be found outside of Earth’s atmosphere. For scenes of intense thrills and action, the score effortlessly accommodates the emotion needed for such a situation but does not stray away from its ethereally portentous undertones.
Whether it be outer space, the mind, mankind itself, faith, or even our will to live, all of these aspects form a symbiotic union of celestial body and the human spirit, making it one of the greatest theatrical releases of that year.