"Either way, it'll be one hell of a ride," Sandra Bullock shudders before taking a deep breath, one she knows could be her last, as she braces herself for one of the most intense and iconic scenes in Gravity. Indeed, Gravity is one hell of a ride, and yet it so much more than simply a ride. Gravity is a transcendental experience in cinema that is unlike anything we have seen before or are likely to see again anytime soon. It is breathtaking in every sense of the word, from its stunning portrayal of zero gravity in space to brutally heart-pounding sequences. As the film becomes layered with deeply existential questions concerning life, loss, and survival, Gravity becomes as consuming as its most thrilling scenes.
Gravity opens with a silently breathtaking shot of Earth from space, as if we are slowly orbiting it from afar. The scene subtly gravitates toward the Hubble telescope, where we meet astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski, played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. They are on a repair mission on the telescope before being notified by NASA that the Russians have launched a missile at one of their own satellites. This anti-satellite test, however, has resulted in a massive amount of space debris that causes catastrophic damage to numerous satellites in the surrounding area. It is not long before Stone and Kowalski are told to abort the mission-the debris is rapidly heading straight toward them. Due to the velocity of the debris, they are unable to return to their shuttle before the maelstrom begins. In a scene that is equally beautiful and terrifying, the two astronauts fight for their lives in a shower of catastrophic destruction and silent explosions. After all, there is no sound in space.
The artistry of Gravity lies not only in large-scale shots of the vast universe and shattered space stations but in its detail as well, such as the subtle reflection of Earth's oceans on an astronaut's helmet or a small screw as it slowly gravitates off-screen. Director Alfonso Cuarón provides a wholly unprecedented experience in Gravity, staying true to the scientific principles of space such as lack of sound and the surreal effects of zero gravity. Real astronauts, such as Buzz Aldrin and Michael J. Massimino, have acclaimed the film's realism, comparing it to their own experiences in space. Gravity is a film where the whole is truly greater than the sum of its parts, because when every detailed piece of the plot comes together, it creates a flawlessly phenomenal cinematic experience unlike any other. Gravity gleams in a year full of brainless, eye-candy films lacking substance, and it is too extraordinary to be missed.