Gravity ★★½


No plot spoilers here because there is no plot

Alfonso Cuaron crafts a welcome return to sumptuous visuals and the kind of white knuckle ride that a blockbuster is supposed to show-off when it has over $100m powering its engines. Gravity also marks a comeback for the compact blockbuster, clocking in at a smidgen over 90 minutes instead of an overblown gratuitous two hour plus yawn into the ether.

The tagline is 'Don't Let Go' and for the most part, particularly if seen in 3D, your hands will locked against your seat. Cuaron has created a symphony of constant graceful movement in and around his subjects in space, pushing us in, out and around their perspectives. The film wins in every sense possible in terms of visual exploration as the CGI creates a probing ocular narrative all of its own.

Dr Ryan Stone tells us that she preferes space because of the silence and if there was a mute option for viewing the film it would have been permanently activated. Gravity is a film you should be allowed to enjoy further, without the clumsy narrative and soulless protagonist jolting the stunning view. It's like finding the most idyllic, peaceful mountain view to soak in the god-like sunrise only to have you ear chewed off by a nagging relative.

A regular defence for the big-budget films derives from the attitude that story and character doesn't really matter. It's loud and dumb enough to fuel the senses, so job done. Which is an incredibly lazy attitude. You don't need to be Arthur C. Clarke or Asimov to colour your characters enough to involve the audience. Jacking in the same old emotional tropes where you absolutely anticipate them to be has become far too common a problem in these films. And it's a issue that significantly takes you out of some of the visceral moments in Gravity.

Sandra Bullock is reasonable enough in her role doing what she can with such an average script. Because she is such a blank canvas of an actor with no particular stand out traits her roles really need to be well written. Which is rarely, if ever, the case given the type of movie she usually chooses. Clooney is, well, just Clooney once again. His charisma can make the most placid wording interesting and his reappearance later in the film only works because it is him. He leaves the film earlier than expected yet manages to invite more interesting questions about Kowalski than Bullock.

So the characters and the narrative are poor and that much becomes clear once we see a family picture next to a dead astronaut floating above Earth. Strap on two helmets if you can. One to avoid the floating debris and another to protect against the heavy handed approach. As there was very little care given to the script thankfully compensation can be found in the crystal clear, real-life CGI that creates a see-saw between the wow moments and the awful attempts to bleed out empathy with these guys.

That said, when Dr Stone reaches land there is a sense of relief that you can step off the ride for a second. Almost immediately you get an adrenalin rush of wanting a second go, to jump back on and reintegrate back into the thrills. You miss those moments of feeling like you are actually in space. Ultimately Gravity is a film I wanted to like more than I eventually did but it turned out to be a rollercoaster of enjoyment with too many dips.

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