You are perfect. I know that may seem sudden, I know it may sound crazy, but I want you to hear me out.
You are stunningly, marvelously, exhilaratingly perfect. I cannot wait to see you as many times as I can on as big a screen as I can (and yes, in 3d). More than any film I have seen this year, you are the one which has caused me the most anxiety, driven me to the greatest extremes of emotional response, and elicited in me the most passionate evangelizing of my friends and family.
I know that I have a tendency to mire myself in technical details, or carefully peel the layers of artistry and feeling which make me either love or hate a film, but in the weeks since I have seen you I’ve been finding that course of action harder and harder to take. Most films, I can safely single out an aspect and coolly discuss it for a time before moving on to something new. Most films, I can make my brain stop so that I might focus on something long enough to really work out the source of its power.
Unfortunately, in order to do that I would need some degree of critical remove, some level of dispassionate distance from which to judge you. Two weeks later, that hasn’t happened. I’m still there, still with you, still seeing those sights, shuddering at the sounds, still dodging out of the way of errant debris blasting out of the screen. I feel like I used to feel when I was a little kid watching films for the first time. You are something new, something dangerous, something wholly unlike anything else I have ever seen.
Your story is deceptively simple, hinging as it does on the struggle of two astronauts (played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) to survive after their space shuttle is destroyed by a debris field. Stranded in the cold black infinity of space, in low orbit over Earth, the two of them must fight their way through impossible odds to try to find a way home. Yet this is only a fraction of what you are truly about, even is that is the ostensible focus of your story.
Yet the simplicity of your story allows for the plot mechanics to get out of the way of the ideas at play. The more we find about Dr. Stone (Sandra Bullock) the more we realize that the life or death situation she finds herself in is about more than just that moment. She has been struggling with life, the concept of continuance. The juxtaposition of the emptiness of space with the glowing, inviting orb that is Earth is both a heavy underline and a subtle allusion to the depression and loneliness she feels. The way in which objects float freely, violating all accepted planes of motion, moving with a single push until a force enacts upon them to stop of change direction, it is all so beautiful and full of meaning and life.
This of course goes doubly for the way in which human bodies move in this environment. Never has the inertia of human motion been made so terrifying. The mere endlessness of motion against the endlessness of space is haunting, and the way in which the camera moves along with the multidimensional motion of our heroes becomes a frightening ballet. That most of these takes are unbroken, occurring in a single shot, only deepens the sense of building dread.
Of course none of these visual marvels would be possible without the groundbreaking and frankly baffling technological advances that Alfonso Cuaron and his special effects team created to make a film like you possible. A cinephile could lose themselves for days just wondering over the way the camera moves, the way the lights shift on the faces of the actors, the way microgravity is so convincingly portrayed.
On all levels you are a mysterious, thrilling, amazing movie. The kind of film that sends one out of the theater raving, shaking, vibrating with a giddy and nervous energy that cannot and has not be matched by anything else I have seen for quite some time. The Grey is the closest analog I can think of, melding the existential terror of an inhospitable environment with the deeper questions regarding humanity’s compulsion toward survival in the face of emotional and physical dread.
Gravity, if there is any justice in the world you will be seen far and wide, discussed endlessly, viewed by a new generation of filmmakers and inspire them to dream and create in the way in which Cuaron has. I have never seen camera and actor and object moving in this way, never seen 3D implemented with such clarity and purpose of expression. Beauty. Truth. Life itself is wound through every frame of you.
Yours, now and forever,
Brian J. Roan