I have always been one to hesitate when it comes to watching a movie in an enclosed space. No, I don’t mean the theater. For me, the theater will always be sacred ground. What I am referring to is a film with a fixed setting. Stranded on a desert island in Castaway. Trapped in a shuttle on Apollo 13. Honestly, it has less to do with Tom Hanks than with twinges of claustrophobia. Not that these films are not excellent in their own way, but it takes some crafty storytelling to maintain a viewer’s attention in closed quarters. I get twitchy just thinking about it. So when Gravity hit the silver screen, another calamity in space a la Apollo 13, I paused and can now admit I was wrong to do so.
Gravity, written by Alfonso and Jose Cuaron, takes all the risks and reaps all the rewards. The truth is it is a simple screenplay without extensive dialogue and with a lot of stunning silence. Hello, space. Surely, the large waves of quiet could have made the film feel more closed off but it did exactly the opposite, opening the viewer to the significance of one’s life in the vast expanse of the universe.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical researcher on her first NASA mission who works alongside retiring astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) before disaster strikes, their shuttle destroyed in an accident that sends them adrift in space. How can they survive with lost communications to Earth? How do they survive without the benefit of gravity? Is it possible to survive?
The Cuarons bring out the essence of humanity by embracing this instinct for survival. The tether that unites Stone and Kowalski after the disaster may well be an umbilical cord that pulls them back to their earlier beginnings, their personal stories, their reasons to live. In a later sequence, Dr. Stone draws herself into a near fetal position while floating weightless in a shuttle pod as if she were back in the womb. These visual themes are stunning and enhance the adrenaline-inducing drama without the need for words.
Technically, Gravity is a marvel. The 3D effects far exceed what Avatar achieved back in 2009, which until now had been the only film worth wearing those goofy glasses. Weightless 3D is even with affective with floating tears and the wrought havoc of space. I found myself clutching my hand rests more than once as I ducked from satellite debris that came flying at me.
Without reservation, Gravity is an impacting powerhouse of a film that resonates with rich themes and stunning imagery. I was left utterly speechless by this genius of film making. It only goes to show that in a world of weightlessness, we bring our own gravity to situations. What makes your life worth saving
Gravity: 5 stethoscopes
Dr. Tanya Feke is a family physician and guest columnist for the Record-Journal weeklies. She has been press credentialed to the LA Film Festival and continues to pursue a love of film. Her reviews are rated on a five stethoscope scale. Follow her blog (www.tanyafeke.com), Facebook page (Diagnosis Life), or twitter (@tanyafeke) for more incites.