It’s rare for a movie to sustain a high level of tension for its entire running length. Gravity achieves this feat by playing in real time, or close to it, opening with a set piece that clocks in at 13 minutes without a cut. Gravity also ups the anxiety by continually poking at a range of fundamental phobias like vertigo, asphyxiation, agoraphobia, claustrophobia, isolation and even being torn from the womb. At no point do the characters feel less than a few centimetres from death.
Freed from the two dimensional plane of the landscape that rules most earthbound cinematic escapades, Gravity offers a visually exciting exploration of roaming-in-all-directions camera placement, highlighting the danger, the disorientation and the alien-ness of outer space. Sadly it significantly foils its own reach for greatness via an artless deployment of sappy dialogue and a needlessly painful backstory for the heroine that seems not to gel with onscreen events in a meaningful way. We get the point but it fails to extend her battle for survival in a compelling thematic direction. That said however, the journey is not without meaning.
Notes on 3d: As has been noted previously, as well as by some of its exponents, it’s still not clear that stereoscopic 3D has found itself a necessary function in cinema, or developed a language via which 3D’s potential is fully realised. In Gravity, the perception of depth harmonises with the idea of weightlessness and things floating in many directions, but perhaps we’ve still yet to see a feature film that only makes sense in 3D or even one that is fundamentally enriched by it.