Gravity: Oscar-Winning Space Thriller at 10

Alfonso Cuarón’s Oscar-winning Gravity remains a visually stunning space thriller as the film marked its tenth anniversary.

This is a film that was made for the big screen experience. The audience finds themselves sitting at the edge of the seat, full of eerie tension. Will Matthew “Matt” Kowalski (George Clooney) and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) make it home? Or will their mission end in certain doom? One hopes not, of course. This doesn’t even begin to start on the visceral sound experience. Cuarón is the sort of filmmaker that knows what he wants out of the sound experience. The big difference in watching from home is missing the surround sound experience that one finds in the theater. The only sounds we hear in the film are the score and whatever the astronauts would be hearing in space or on the shuttle. I must note that I have yet to see the film in 3D but 2D did not take away from my experience.

Dr. Ryan Stone is a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission. Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski commands the Space Shuttle Explorer mission. It should be routine spacewalk to repair the Hubble telescope, right? Disaster strikes the mission almost as soon as they start, forcing to abort–no thanks to the Russians accidentally shooting down a spy satellite. Stone and Kowalski are on their own and left to improvise after debris destroys their shuttle. They are the sole survivors but only if they can make it to the International Space Station some 900 miles away and ride an escape pod back to Earth. Running into one problem after another, we’re sitting there watching every moment unfold in real-time, not knowing if they’ll make it or not.

Cuarón and Mark Sanger won an Oscar for their film editing and deservingly so. This film has a fast pace and it’s over before we know it. But really, this is a film that has everything going for it. Gravity also won Oscars for directing, cinematography, visual effects, score, sound editing, and sound mixing. Again, deservingly so and I can say this after watching a delayed 10th anniversary viewing. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s work on the opening sequence alone is Oscar-worthy, even if they had stopped the film after 13 minutes. The film’s only misses were for Best Picture, actress, and production design. Ten years later, I would argue that it’s the best film of 2013, certainly from a technical perspective. Of course, it ranks second for most Oscars without winning the big one.

There’s a lot to celebrate about Gravity but the film would not be what it is without the visual effects. There’s barely a minute in which there isn’t a VFX shot present. It was worth the years that Framestore spent working on VFX in the leadup to the release. To say it is astonishing would not be an understatement because this is a film unlike anything I’ve seen before when it comes to a space thriller.

Cuarón has argued that the film is not a sci-fi film. I can understand his argument by looking at Gravity being a thriller with a setting in outer space. Could such events transpire in real life? Possibly but let’s hope such a scenario remains a work of fiction. In any event, there’s a lot of adversity here when it comes to the will to go on. At one point, Stone is hallucinating by seeing Kowalski entering the capsule! This is what gives her a push to go on and go home. There’s something about being out there all alone in space that sets such films apart from being stranded on a deserted island.

The film is not without its own Titanic moment. Personally, I agree with the scientists arguing that Kowalski could have lived and that did not need to untether himself and sacrifice his life. That being said, I’m a writer because subjects like math and science are not my strong suit.

Given how Warner Bros. has been releasing a number of library titles in 4K UHD for the studio’s 100th anniversary, I’m surprised they haven’t done so for Gravity. After all, this year marked its tenth anniversary and the film is long overdue for a 4K Ultra HD upgrade.

Gravity is a thrilling technical achievement unlike any other space thriller.

DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuarón
SCREENWRITERS: Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón
CAST: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Warner Bros. released Gravity in theaters on October 4, 2013. Grade: 5/5

Please subscribe to Dugout Dirt and Solzy at the Movies on Substack.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.

You Missed

Bob Newhart: A Legacy of Laughter Airs on July 22

Bob Newhart: A Legacy of Laughter Airs on July 22

Rabin In His Own Words: A Cinematic Autobiography

Rabin In His Own Words: A Cinematic Autobiography

Bob Newhart: Comedy Legend Dead at 94

Bob Newhart: Comedy Legend Dead at 94

Twisters Storms Its Way Into Theaters for a Thrilling Time

Twisters Storms Its Way Into Theaters for a Thrilling Time

Jac Collinsworth Joining Peacock’s Gold Zone During Paris Olympics

Jac Collinsworth Joining Peacock’s Gold Zone During Paris Olympics

Eyes Wide Shut: Final Stanley Kubrick Film Marks 25th Anniversary

Eyes Wide Shut: Final Stanley Kubrick Film Marks 25th Anniversary