Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical researcher turned astronaut sent on a one-off space expedition to install some ambiguous prototype system. Her character’s inexperience is balanced by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). When the Russians randomly decide to blow up one of their own satellites, a rapid storm of space debris is thrown into Earth’s orbit, destroying everything in its path, including Stone and Kowalski’s shuttle. The remaining 75 minutes of film present our protagonists’ fight for survival.
Nothing about Gravity’s plot is particularly exciting. Indeed, the movie is at its weakest when it tries to foreground the story. Dialogue is poor, character development is blunt. Clooney’s performance as Kowalski is just too George Clooney, and is probably the low point of the film.
All that aside, Gravity is a tremendous visual triumph. The heart of this film is the brilliant positioning of the action relative to Earth. Cuarón consistently frames shots with stunning images of the blue planet looming the background. The camera often pans from within the characters’ helmets to capture an insider perspective of outer space, perhaps one of the most effective uses of first person perspective in film history.
In all regards, the cinematography is beautiful. Gravity cultivates a respect for the depth and isolation of space equal parts compelling and terrifying. Critics have already begun to hail Gravity as a movie ten years ahead of its time, a landmark work. On the whole, that’s not true; the dialogue is too clumsy, the plot progression too overt. While it might not be a landmark for cinema, however, Gravity may be a landmark for cinematography.