By: Mary Fran Bontempo
Think Cast Away but in outer space and crammed into real time.
Gravity, the widely-heralded space disaster movie starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney is, at its most basic, a survival film, a la the Tom Hanks desert island movie from 2000. (Hard to believe Cast Away is thirteen years old.)
The primary difference, that Gravity takes place over an actual ninety minute time frame, as opposed to the months Cast Away had Hanks’ Chuck Noland stranded, gives Gravity a pulse-pounding intensity maintained throughout the film. While Cast Away offered moments of respite for both Noland and the audience, once Bullock’s Ryan Stone and Clooney’s Matt Kowalski are offered up as floating pinballs in a space collision, there’s no rest for anyone, especially the viewer.
Once disaster strikes, we follow the astronauts in a desperate attempt to figure out how to get back to Earth, despite the fact that it looks impossible.
Cinematically, the movie is stunning, and the interludes of silence profound, especially when the astronauts and audience realize that they could be permanent. The absence of gravity presents in amazing and touching ways, as when Ryan cries and her tears float away from her face. Oh, and this is a film that must be seen in 3-D. Otherwise, don’t bother.
While I’m glad I saw the movie, especially given the hype, comparatively speaking, Cast Away, for all its implausibilities, was, at heart, infinitely more believable than the premise of Gravity, and that made me care more about the characters. Somehow, I could believe that Tom Hanks could survive a crash on a desert island. But Bullock figuring out how to get back to Earth (if she does, that is), not so much.
Gravity will likely be in Oscar contention, as will Bullock for her performance, so it may be worth seeing for that reason alone. And while I’m happy to see a woman in a strong protagonist role, I’m really looking forward to seeing Tom Hanks in Captain Philips, the story of the ship captain kidnapped by Somali pirates. Just as harrowing, but this time, true.
See the Gravity trailer, below.