I have always enjoyed Sandra Bullock (The Blind Side). She’s never annoyed me like she annoys other people. Oh actually, she was a nightmare in All About Steve, but that is the one exception. So when I walked into the cinema to watch Gravity a couple of years ago, I was comfortable with watching Bullock for a good 91 minutes. What I didn’t realize was that I would be seeing her at her absolute best. Gravity is her magnum opus, her crowning jewel, her chef d’oeuvre.
I know that sci-fi movies can put some people off. They’re not everybody’s cup of tea. But this movie isn’t really a classic sci-fi and it’s not about space just as the movie Arrival wasn’t really about Aliens. They’re both really about grieving women trying to get through each day.
Bullock plays Ryan Stone. She’s a mother dealing with adversity, loss and an overpowering sense of loneliness. She lives for her job as a medical engineer in outer space.
Stone and Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney (Up in the Air) are working on the exterior of their spacecraft when disaster strikes and their shuttle is destroyed. And when disaster strikes in outer space, well, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it really.
Stone and Kowalski are trapped by their isolation. They float away from the station and Earth, and as each minute passed, I felt like I was floating out into space with them. In one scene, Stone floats and spins slowly in a circle. I remember vividly leaning over to my friend and saying “she looks like a fetus in a womb.” The whole movie is a metaphor for rebirth. I was in a cinema packed full of people and yet I felt incredibly vulnerable and alone.
I believe Gravity is one of the best movies I have ever seen. The cinematic theme of a woman’s grief isn’t at all unique, but the solitude in which she experiences it in Gravity absolutely is. The infinity of space expanded the depth of the story’s intimacy to the farthest expanses of the Universe. The movie is about silence. It’s about waiting for someone to save you when you know that ultimately, only you can save yourself.
Sandra Bullock stripped herself to the barest nuance to play the role of her grieving character. Stone is sharp and brutal. She isn’t the warmest person in the world or space. Her caustic nature controls her actions, her communication and her willingness to survive.
The fascinating thing about Gravity, the thing that really pulled me into the core of Stone’s isolation and fear, was the use of sound. There was almost none. Most blockbusters rely on pulling your heartstrings with big orchestral pieces or pounding scores but Gravity sat in the silence. It was breathtaking and often heartbreaking.
Gravity also confirmed the importance of VMAX and IMAX cinemas for me. The first movie ever shown in a cinema of people in 1896 had a scene where a train plowed toward the screen. The audience was so certain that the train was going to hit them, that they jumped out of their seats to avoid it. I had the same experience when the debris from the broken spacecraft was hurtling at me in Gravity 3-D. I ducked in my seat. I don’t think there is anything more powerful in cinema than when a movie makes you fear for your physical well being.
So I know what I’m about to say next makes me a bit of a freak. I am not a fan of George Clooney. I know. He’s a dreamboat. But a good actor? Meh. However, his acting is lifted in Gravity because of one thing, Sandra Bullock. She guides Clooney in this movie and elevates his performance.
There are movies that entertain us, that make us laugh, cry and everything in between. But Gravity transported me from this Earth for 91 minutes. For those 91 minutes, I was flying. What an absolute gift the experience was.