The thing that struck me about watching Gravity for the second time was that it still worked, as my initial worry was that its impact could have lessened, and we would have been left with a beautiful if somewhat empty movie. Luckily, Gravity is just as good on a second viewing as it was on its first and the transfer to Blu-ray makes this disc a must have.
Rarely does a movie deserve the level of hype it receives in this day and age. With a clever marketing team and a clever use of editing on trailers, most movies these days are billed as a “must see” event, but how many times are we, as an audience, let down by this? More often than not I would say, especially in the bloated summer blockbuster season. Gravity though, deserves its hype and all the accolades that come with it. Its mix of stunning visuals, a strong central performance from Sandra Bullock and excellent direction from Alfonso Cuaron all combine to make one of the most memorable movies in years.
Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, who is on her first space mission and serves as mission specialist. Stone is accompanied by George Clooney’s Lieutenant Matt Kowalski, team commander and who is making his last mission in space. The other actors we hear from are purely voices, such as Ed Harris’ Mission Controller back in Houston or the Inuit fisherman that Stone has a brief conversation with midway through the film when her attempted transmission doesn’t have the desired effect. As they are attempting maintenance on the Hubble telescope, the astronauts and the crew of the Explorer are warned of incoming debris after a rogue Russian rocket has knocked out a satellite and caused a chain reaction, bringing down other satellites which are sent hurtling toward them.
It is left up to Bullock to carry the weight of the movie on her petite shoulders, as she encounters one problem after another in a seemingly endless run of bad luck. Her performance is key here and it’s a quite remarkable one to say the least. Her transformation from scared and naive first time astronaut, to resilient and born again human being is akin to the great screen heroines, and could be compared to Ellen Ripley or Sarah Connor if you will. All three women find themselves in extraordinary situations, and have to constantly defy the odds just to survive.
Clooney’s Matt Kowalski is a playboy type. He has an endless supply of stories to tell and has no problem in doing so, even if it may be grating on his fellow astronauts and, possibly, the audience. At first you could be forgiven for thinking that Clooney is on autopilot, his easy charm and laid back nature seemingly adding nothing to the film apart from another voice. However, it’s this charm that you soon realise is the counterpoint to Stone, he calms her down when she is breathing too fast and makes her think when she is otherwise incapable. This also works for the audience, when things are getting too much and the tension can’t seem to get any higher, there is Kowalski telling us to breathe and easing us back into the movie.
For a movie that is seemingly so simple plot wise, it has a lot to offer in terms of its themes. Normally I don't go looking for hidden meanings or metaphors in movies, but they are so obvious here it is hard to ignore them. Life, death, birth, survival, uncertainty, failure and loss are just a few of themes that Cuaron successfully deals with. Some are more obvious than others, Stone in the foetal position for example, while others are a little harder to see but become more apparent after multiple viewings.
Alfonso Cuaron comes across as a perfectionist, as he leaves nothing to chance in this movie. Every explosion, every tear, every part of debri is perfectly formed. The extras on this disc even show him correcting which hand Stone would use while performing tasks in space. His work here could be compared to that of Stanley Kubrick’s, maintaining that everything in the movie has a reason for being. People can also debate the themes throughout the movie, and draw their own conclusions to whatever metaphors they may find, but whether you see Gravity as a life affirming piece of human drama or a 90 minute blockbuster set in space it definitely, it deserves the hype.
The already good looking Gravity now looks even better in high-definition. The Blu-ray transfer is as clear as anything I have seen on this format and lends itself brilliantly to it. The shots of the earth are when it is at its best, showcasing a warm glow and really demonstrating the hard work that UK based visual effects team Framestore put into this project. The bleakness of space is also apparent, and the shots of explosions and destruction also stand out, giving us a picture which highlights both the detail and the larger more expansive shots. Steven Price's score has also never sounded better. His composition complements the movie in the best way possible, moving the action along and creating tension but never overwhelming the audience or the actors, and therefore never becomes intrusive.
As for the extras on the disc, there is sadly no commentary track from the movies director or stars, but there are several features worth your time. The first of these extras is the behind the scenes making of, Gravity: Mission Control. This feature can be played in individual parts or as a whole and runs for 1 hour 46 minutes. It's the next best thing to a commentary and provides us with a look at how Gravity was made, from its initial storyboard sketches to the great work Framestore did on finalising the movie.
Next up is a series of shot breakdowns. These expand on the previous making of, giving us a further look behind the scenes of the movie and some of the key shots of the movie. They range from interesting to fairly boring, but give anyone interested in the technical side of the movie a great look at how it was made. These run for 36 minutes.
One of the best features however, is the short film (6 minutes 53 seconds) Aninjaaq. The short is directed by Jonas Cuaron (Alfonso's son) and can be played with or without an introduction by the pair. Even though the short has been available to watch online for a while now, it is still the standout feature here and focuses on a crucial moment in the movie, but from an alternative angle. To say any more would ruin it for anyone who hasn't yet seen the movie and may not know which bit I am referring to.
The final feature is a 22 minute documentary narrated by Ed Harris called Collision Point: The Race To Clean Up Space. The documentary details the amount of junk currently flying around in space, why we should take note of it and also how this threat inspired the events of the movie. It's an interesting piece and is given some gravitas by Harris' narration, but fails to grip you in the same way the movie does.
Gravity is a brilliant movie, well deserving of its plaudits and one that looks even better on Blu-ray.