It feels misleading to describe Gravity as a “simple” film. It’s a survival tale, a story built not on character drama and plot twists but on the fundamental, bloody-minded human need to fight for life. The minimalist storyline is at odds with the wide expanse of outer space that is the film’s setting. Gravity’s dizzyingly effective and gorgeously innovative cinematography creates a unique film: one that deftly captures the sense of scale and isolation.
The film’s simplicity lends it power. It’s the kind of film that you don’t watch so much as experience; when Dr Stone (Sandra Bullock) is sent spiralling on an uncontrolled trajectory into space, you share her nausea. When her oxygen supplies run low and she struggles for air, drowning in CO2, it’s impossible not to feel tight of breath. When she gasps for air, you breathe deeply with her; Gravity is an intense film, but it’s not relentless. It gives you time to breathe.
It’s also not perfect. The characterisation is necessarily spare, but the inevitable character arc feels slightly contrived. Some shots are a little on-the-nose (one particular scene aims to evoke the womb with distracting unsubtlety). But as an experience, its power is second-to-none.