Gravity is 91 minutes of heart-pounding action that will make palms sweat. Even though the script is not Alfonso Cuarón's strongest, he proves once again he is a genius director.
Ambushed by space debris, medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are left stranded without a working ship. Floating around in space, they must find their way to a nearby space station before their oxygen supply runs out.
After taking in some chilling facts about space, the senses are immediately overwhelmed by deafening music followed by disconcerting silence. Cuarón consistently abides by the absence of sound in space with refreshing accuracy, and he terrifyingly depicts the difficulties of movement in zero gravity. The vastness of space drowns the viewer in the same terror and desperation the main characters feel.
To claim this film is anything less than a visual masterpiece would be to undersell it. Opening with an unbroken 17-minute shot, the cinematography is some of the most inspired work in recent years. The camera floats around like an object in zero gravity, which is simultaneously beautiful and disorienting, and the shots flow seamlessly thanks to Cuarón and editor Mark Sanger. Credit must also be given to director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, who is guaranteed to win the Academy Award for Best Cinematography this year.
Though the film is a technological wonder, it relies too much on its visuals. Some philosophical elements lie in the basic premise of isolation in space, but the story that ensues is much less intriguing. Everything that can possibly go wrong for the characters does, and yet other moments are too convenient to be believable. The story plays out in real time to make the events seem as natural as possible, but there is some excess of characters panting or doing dull tasks.
Despite being the only two characters on the screen for most of the runtime, Stone and Kowalski remain pretty flat. Bullock and Clooney both give reasonably strong performances, but they have been restricted by the script Cuarón and his son, Jonas, gave them.
Like the cinematography, the music helps cover up the weak story. Steven Price's original score is mesmerizing, haunting and intense, fulfilling the script's needs, breathing life into events to make them more exciting.
Gravity is an unsettling thriller that explores the fear of solitude like never before. The selling point is its undeniably inventive approach to filmmaking and, despite its flaws, it is a monumental game changer in cinematography.
Mark Mukherjee is a senior at King High.