What? A 3D film with just two actors? That’s the first thing that will come to your mind when you will think of watching Gravity, but the third (f)actor is just as interesting as the Oscar winning duo – space! Director Alfonso Cuaron’s epic 3D movie not only shows you how beautiful space really is but also brings forth its hostility, and the reason why it remains unconquered even today!
The film captures the viewers’ interest from its very first shot – in which a space shuttle makes way into the frame from what seems like a long shot of planet Earth. Gravity then moves on with its story that is about two astronauts – Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran shuttle Commander Lieutenant Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) – who are left stranded in space after a high-speed onslaught of debris from a destroyed satellite. They float around amidst the deafening silence of space but (almost) never without hope, something that keeps the film going throughout its 90-minute run!
‘Set your watches for 90 minutes!’ When Clooney issues this directive to Bullock after the first space debris attack, he is ‘instructing’ the audience that the next hour and a half would be a thrilling ride for them! Some have debated that Gravity is more like an animated film because it the two characters are mostly in helmets and space suits but what they fail to realize is that inside the suits in Sandra Bullock and George Clooney who are Oscar-winning actors! And yes, animated films don’t have one of the best dream sequences ever filmed in as a regular scene, do they? (Watch out for it!)
Let’s talk about the two characters now -Clooney’s Matt Kowalski is goofy but caring while Dr. Stone has a tragic background story that is revealed as the movie progresses. Yes, she is running out of oxygen; yes, she is a little accident-prone and a tad uninitiated on her first space flight ever (in fact, she turns out to be a super-magnet for trouble) and yes, she is the reason why the duo wasn’t able to make it back to their space shuttle despite warnings of the expected attack, but does that mean she should be hated? No. She is the central character of the movie (sorry ladies!) and it is her determination that keeps her wits about her, even in the darkest place in the universe.
The visuals were breathtaking; the idea to use extended sequences was a masterstroke since it fills the heart and mind of the viewer with the very idea that they are in space, where the action is happening. We know that making a movie in space is near-impossible; hence, the ‘final frontier’ was created in-house by director Cuaron and his team. CGI was an obvious and expected part of the production – Cuaron went about having the entire space sequences created digitally with the actors’ faces being the only camera-captured element. Really makes you wonder just what all computers are capable of! Cuaron pre-animated the whole film frame by frame to gain an exact picture of what he wanted executed, and then went about inventing the technology to achieve it! A super-sized 4000 bulb-strong light box was created for the required light effects and it also held the two-ton camera rig that would circulate Bullock’s body in a 360-degree fashion to create the illusion of her whirling in space. All this to create a believable zero gravity effect – they couldn’t actually spin Bullock around, her face would give away the strain, and there’s no such strain where’s there is no gravity. What’s more, if you wondered whether Bullock’s weightless floating in the space station was the work of invisible puppetry, then yes, you’re absolutely correct! Broadway puppeteers were brought over for those scenes, in which 12 carbon-thin wires, practically invisible onscreen, were manipulated to have Bullock’s body glide effortlessly through the stations. And then there is the 3D effects, added in post-production, which takes the movie to an all-new level adding weightlessness and the silence that is so ‘out of this world’! All of this technical wizardry lends a stroke of realism to this larger than life story. The actors must also be commended because they were able to make the audience believe that they were actually in space.
What makes Gravity one of the biggest blockbusters of all times? It doesn’t have superheroes saving the Earth; it isn’t the remake or sequel of an already made successful movie and it doesn’t have jaw-dropping action sequences in space where Darth Vader comes in and goes as he pleases. Gravity stands out because it is made in an era when such movies are not even considered plausible on paper let alone submitted as a possible venture. It is a space thriller with few characters but enough substance to last for a long time. It is like Life of Pi, only this time, the action doesn’t take place on water!