Gravitas

I finally saw Gravity.

With the next Hunger Games films due to push it out of Imax on Friday, I wanted to see it on the biggest screen available.  I’ve been keen on Gravity for months now, though disappointed that we in the UK had to wait so long after the US release to see it, but… it was worth the wait.

Sandra Bullock struggles to survive in space.

Sandra Bullock struggles to survive in space.

There’s been much press and excitement about Alfonso Cuaron’s technical masterpiece, and the filmmaking is flawless, pushing the form to a new level with its seamless integration of special effects and humans storytelling. It felt like another leap forward in the way Jaws and Star Wars were in the 70’s, The Matrix was in the 90’s, and Avatar was just four years ago.  If you haven’t seen it, there’s a thorough piece in the L.A. Times about how father and son Cuaron created Gravity from the ashes of small indie film whose finances fell apart, well worth the read, but the real story in Gravity, is that it’s character-driven storytelling at its very best.

The film reminded me of Nicole Kidman’s big break in Dead Calm.

Nicole Kidman struggles to survive on a sailboat.

Nicole Kidman struggles to survive at sea.

It also reminded me of Ryan Reynolds in Buried, where a man wakes up in a coffin in Iraq.  The entire film takes place inside a wooden box, and works as a suspense thriller because the audience cares if the buried man makes it out alive.

Ryan Reynolds struggles to survive in a coffin.

Ryan Reynolds struggles to survive in a coffin.

And though I admittedly haven’t seen it (a sin I will quickly rectify), the same story seems to unfold for Robert Redford in All Is Lost.

Robert Redford struggles to survive on a, yep, a sailboat.

Robert Redford struggles to survive on a, yep, a sailboat.

If these survival stories are similar, what’s the differentiating factor?  I believe it’s character.

Sandra Bullock’s character, Ryan Stone, carries the film and the movie works because we care about her. She’s a professional, competent at her craft, but in over her (upside down) head. She’s also haunted by her past, going through the motions of life, surviving but not thriving. Suddenly, her very survival comes into question and she herself questions whether to persevere.

GRAVITY

Sandra Bullock struggles to survive in space.

Her character is masterfully at once unique but also reflective, meaning she allows the audience to parts of themselves in her.  It’s the ultimate ‘what would you do’ question played out on an epic scale, 600 km above the Earth.  Ryan Stone becomes the vessel for the audience’s hopes, dreams, and fears.

What type of character would you like to see attempt to survive, and where?

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