Just like Stanley Kubrick and Orson Welles, Alfonso Cuarón gazes upward and ponders the dangers that await in space. In ‘Gravity’, Cuarón tells a tale of terror amongst the stars, using the disaster movie format.
I like that the film unashamedly knows what it is. Cuarón is very clear about the ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ influences. Like Kubrick, Cuarón uses the lack of sound in the vaccum as a tension building device.
With that said, it was somewhat patronising to remind the audience that sound cannot be heard in space before the first scene.
The movie is also very obvious about what certain scenes are trying to achieve. There is a moment where the characters just stop what they are doing to admire the view. Cuarón is very open about ‘Gravity’ just being an audio/visual rollercoaster and there is nothing wrong with that.
Cuarón’s directing has a way of drawing you in. You can see every component on the devices, combine this with the feedback sounds from the microphones and you feel like you are right there. Some of the shots are awe-inspiring, the camera does a full lap of the space station at times. We get to see every alcove and feel the sheer size of it.
When the debris first crashes into the space station, we get to see a patented Cuarón shot. The shot in question is the spinning subject. Cuarón spins a character 360 degrees while the camera is stationary, every so often the actor’s face zooms past the lens. He also uses this shot during the Womping Willow scene of the third Harry Potter movie.
‘Gravity’ has a theme of evolution and rebirth. Over the course of the movie, Dr. Stone becomes strong in the face of adversity like her teammate, Kowalski. The symbolism helps to illustrate this.
Kowalski is very much a mentor figure to Stone, therefore he is the one to protect her when the mission fails. He literally tethers himself to her. However, when Kowalski forces her to go it alone, that tether is cut like an umbilical cord.
When Stone returns to the ship, its bay is presented like the womb. She sheds her space suit and floats there in the fetal position, safe from the dangers outside.
Finally, she falls to Earth. The shuttle breaks into multiple pieces, resembling the shrapnel storm that has plagued her throughout. Stone lands in water and and sheds her suit again before breaching the surface like a water birth. She floats there for a moment, the image looks like a baptism. She later stands upon the shore reborn.
Although the symbolism is superb, the writing lacked some depth in my opinion. Overall though, this is a great space adventure.