Anyone who has seen Alfonso Cuaron's Children of Men (2006) would have declared the Mexican filmmaker a true visionary of cinema. That film is an extraordinary piece of science-fiction cinema that is in my opinion the best picture of 2006.
We would have to wait for another seven years for his next work, Gravity, which comes with stratospheric expectations that are met with aplomb. This could just be one of the very best space movies ever made in the history of cinema. Now, that's a claim you might just agree with once you catch it on the biggest of screens.
I urge you to catch Gravity on the immersive IMAX 3D format because that is the only format that can do this movie justice. It's like watching Lawrence of Arabia (1962) - you want to catch it on the widest screen possible.
The vastness of space, the terror of space, and the beauty of space are all brilliantly conveyed as a result of Cuaron's creative direction and the astounding work of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who has to win the Oscar for Best Cinematography next year. Running at just about 90 minutes, Gravity is taut, tight, tense and never lets go. It is one of the most gripping cinematic experiences in many years.
But Children of Men is a more complete and satisfying film, though that should not take away the achievement of Cuaron's latest effort. Starring Sandra Bullock, who is supported by George Clooney in a small role, Gravity takes us immediately into space in the first shot, an astonishing long take that lasts almost twenty minutes.
Much of the dramatic weight lies on Bullock's shoulders, and she performs to expectations, very often alone in complete isolation. The human story is developed quite well, and there are some truly emotional moments, in particular the scene where Bullock howls along like a lonely wolf to an unknown radio transmission.
Still, there is a sense of predictability to the proceedings despite having a plot that banks entirely on uncertainty to generate suspense. There are strange moments, but there are also beautiful moments. Cuaron's direction brings us somewhere a space movie has never taken us to before, at least viscerally.
Gravity is also a technical breakthrough, a technological marvel that pushes the boundaries of filmmaking to its limits. Using a combination of live action, CG effects, animation, motion capture, and innovative ways to light the actors (e.g. Lubezki's Light Box), Gravity can be appreciated from a technical and artistic standpoint. To moviegoers' delight, the Cuaron-Lubezki dynamic continues to soar, zero gravity or otherwise. This is recommended viewing, and one of the top ten films of 2013.
Verdict: The vision and genius that director Cuaron and cinematographer Lubezki bring to the table is sensational, creating one of the best space movies ever.