Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" is a 3D science fiction thriller, but not in the conventional sense. With no iota of fantasy in it, the film is simple and engaging to the core and evokes strong polar reactions.
It is outstanding from a technical perspective with controlled acting and a precise tone. But at the same time, it does not have much of a story line. It is slow, lacks pace and even sub-plots. It is attractive yet disturbing, detailed yet enormous and specific yet universally relatable.
It is a survival tale set in space. There is no glamour, aliens, antagonists, specialised automated robotic action sequences or supernatural phenomena.
"Gravity" begins with an exceptionally brilliant shot that seems to last forever. What starts off as a speck in the darkness slowly grows and glows. Earth is beautifully captured from over a distance of 600 km from space where three astronauts are working on a space station. The shot is brilliant and jaw dropping.
The focus shifts to the space station and onto the mood of the three astronauts. It's a regular day in space. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), an accomplished medical engineer is busy fixing a technical problem on the exterior of the spacecraft. She is accompanied by another hand and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a veteran astronaut on his final mission, is just clowning about with a jetpack strapped to him.
The disposition of the three seems routine yet frivolous. They are floating, tumbling and swirling in space solemnly enjoying their solitude and their work. All of a sudden they are informed that as a result of a chain reaction from the Russians having shot down one of their own satellites, debris from this neighbouring space station is hurtling towards them.
Before the three of them can react to this warning the debris from the destroyed spacecraft hits them, tossing them about and damaging their shuttle. Thrown into oblivion, the astronauts struggle to survive and this forms the crux of the story.
As time passes, things go awry. What keeps you hooked is your curiosity to know; what happens when the umbilical cord that holds the astronauts to the spacecraft snaps...when the pressure vessel on the spacecraft ruptures...when there is a fire on board? These questions are all answered in awe inspiring detail.
On the performance front, Sandra Bullock is composed and controlled. She expresses herself more with her breathing and voice modulation and subtle facial expressions. George Clooney provides some entertainment for those short of attention with his jostling around and cheesy one-liners.
What touches you about "Gravity" is its unpretentious nature. It has no hidden agendas.
The story, written by director Cuaron and his son Jonas, may seem formulaic but it is the technical expertise that will baffle you continuously. The outstanding direction and visuals are apparent in the 13-minute continuous opening scene where the camera faultlessly zooms in and out and rotates at various angles to give you a mind-boggling cinematic experience.
The director of photography, Emmanuel Lubezki's frames with images of astonishing clarity seamlessly merge with the computer generated images created by Tim Webber.
The background score by Steven Price is commendable. He has effectively created a sound which has an awesomely eerie trace.
Overall, the production values of the film are good.
"Gravity" is nothing more than just a visually exciting suspense drama.