‘Gravity’ is Bullock’s one-woman show

There are moments in cinema that transcend the confines of the screen; they soon become moments in our social discourse that will be spoken about for years. 

They become a reference point – an opportunity when cinema has the potential to change society if we allow its potency to influence lives. 

This is what “Gravity” can do. 

“Gravity” is not a movie, or a film. Yes, those are its given titles, its medium, but it is more than that. 

It’s an experience – an observation about the human condition and the fleeting occurrences that construct our time on earth. 

“Gravity” opens with a beautiful, awe-inspiring shot of Earth. Director Alfonso Cuarón has no sound accompanying the image. 

He yearns for the audience’s attention, pleading for reverence toward theplanet. Diegetic sound eventually fades up to hear Mission Control from Houston, voiced by Ed Harris (“Apollo 13,” “The Right Stuff”) with country music echoing in the background. 

Cuarón bestows the audience with a few minutes with two characters and how they converse and interact.  

We are aware of what lies beneath their astronaut suits before the cosmos decide to get grumpy. 

Toward the 15-minute mark, George Clooney’s character, Matt Kowalski, says to Sandra Bullock, who plays medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone, “Set your watch for the next 90 minutes.” 

This self-reflexive moment apprises us of where the film’s narrative will be going. 

While Stone and Kowalski’s mission appears routine, what emerges when Houston demands them to “abort mission,” is a fight for life. Also in question is if the actions that we see on screen really are capable in space, such as using a fire estinguisher as a jet pack.  

The true wonderment lies in Bullock’s performance and Cuarón’s use of 3D. She is vulnerable and unsure; a protagonist who soon realizes that just because one leaves Earth, the pain from life does not necessarily stay behind. Cuarón divulges Stone’s despair throughout the film.  

Is it necessary to have such a backstory?  That’s for one to decide, but what makes viewers care for Stone is her alacrity to live. 

With everything that surrounds her, it can be quite easy to get absorbed in the vastness and beauty of space, but “Gravity” is a character study at its core. 

There are images and sounds that Cuarón creates that invoke life: when Stone takes off her astronaut suit, she is seen floating in a fetal position as long, jagged cords are behind her and the sounds of a baby crying as frequencies continue to get crossed between Russian and American space stations. 

As the title card suggests in the beginning of the film, “Life in space is impossible,” yet for Cuarón, Stone’s struggle for life in space can provide the audience with sentiments on just how fragile and fleeting life can be. 

Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki create space as serene and vast. 

Objects throughout the film pop right out, and leaves one with a sensation that almost overrides brains informing this is not an illusion. 

The camera floats in and out through every crack and crevice of Stone’s journey, and enables the audience to be absorbed in the environment. “Gravity’s” veneer surpasses what James Cameron accomplished with “Avatar” and makes the film a technical wonder to behold. 

“Gravity” is a major accomplishment because it manages to achieve the visual splendor of Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” with the thrills of Ridley Scott’s “Alien,” becoming a modern classic that deals more about the human suffering than with the scientific phenomenon that is life. It pulls viewers in and reminds them that cinema not only projects life but also can reflect life. 

 Grade: A