Weighty subjects take flight

Gravity_SBullock3SR: The best looking film ever made, a masterpiece of cinematic magic. Sadly undercut by over earnest dialogue that comes at you like a rolled up newspaper across the nose.

Starring: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron.

Written by Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron and Rodrigo Garcia.

****1/2

Science Fiction,  thriller. 1hr 31mins.  M for offensive language and content that may disturb.

Apollo 14 Astronaut Edgar Mitchell once described the view of earth on his first trip into orbit as a ‘‘glimpse into divinity’’.

Astronauts do tend to wax a little poetic and emo when they describe getting an angel’s eye view of our little patch of earth.

‘‘Seeing this has to change a man,’’ James Irwin, Apollo 15, said. ‘‘Has to make a man appreciate the creation of God and the love of God.’’

Director and writer Alfonso Cuaron may not have been up there himself, but his deeply spiritual take on humanity’s work in space, Gravity, proves he knows exactly what those guys are talking about.

When debris from an exploded Russian satellite crashes into the space shuttle during a routine experiment only two of the crew, seasoned captain Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and rookie medical officer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) survive.

Stranded and with oxygen levels low, the pair must make their way across the vacuum of space to the International Space Station and its  escape pod if they’re to have any hope of getting home.

But with the debris still hurtling around the earth, minutes from pummelling them again, and all contact with Huston cut off,  the odds are against either of them ever making it alive.

It’s not hyperbole to say Gravity is the most visually stunning film ever made.

I didn’t think suspension of disbelief was really possible any more, audiences are jaded and cynical from too many years of CGI madness. But as the camera spins  across the lambent arc of a very distant Earth, a glittering mote in the eye of the universe, and with our point of view often fused with that of Bullock’s terrified Everywoman, it is impossible not to be pulled into the the film’s orbit.

At times the scenes are so natural it’s hard to imagine how they were made anywhere other than 2000 kilometres straight up. It’s movie making as an art form at the highest level – practically transcendent.

The stunning glimpses of blue-green landscapes, swirling cloud patterns and the glittering trails of city lights at night are literally awesome, while the diamond ring of a sunrise seen from space is utterly and breathtakingly real.

Even the details of zero gravity – floating tears and little baubles of fire bobbing around a cabin – are enchanting.

This is the closest most of us will ever get to space travel and it is deeply moving.

The awe-inspiring imagery underpins Cuaron’s favourite  themes of redemption, forgiveness and faith perfectly – what better backdrop to a woman’s battle with her demons than infinity?

Stone, who has lost her faith,  seeks the oblivion of space.

‘‘I like the silence,’’ she tells Kowlaski when he asks what’s brought her up here.

But as her silent retreat is shattered and the voices of earth, both Kowlaski’s and those of stray radio waves call her back home, Stone’s struggle to get back to earth becomes a kind of modern passion play in which she passes through ice, fire and even the womb-like confines of a space station to be reborn, a new Eve stumbling across the wilderness on shakey space legs.

It’s all pretty thrilling, even if it is let down by over earnest dialogue that’s too often on the nose.

It may be heavy handed, but Gravity’s audacious beauty more than earns its place next to philosophical sci-fi greats like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solaris. An uplifting and wild ride.


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