DirkH’s review published on Letterboxd:
Yes. Yet another five star rating for Gravity. Before I go on, the five stars are for the experience. I don't know how you rate films, but my rating is for a great deal based on the fact that I just walked out of the theatre having seen something I have never seen before. Gravity is Jurassic Park's dinosaurs. It is a technological marvel urged on by a director who is intent on discovering how far he can stretch the medium. Many have said it and I have to agree. This was made for IMAX and probably shouldn't be seen any other way.
What makes Gravity so great? It is the totality of the immersive experience, the relentless ruthlessness of the script towards its characters and the fact that the pacing is immaculate.
The way Cuaron shoots his film, with his familiar fluid camerawork, creates the tether to the main characters. It's up close and personal. After the absolutely stunning opening sequence is over, we never really leave Bullock and co. We hover with them, sometimes even allowing access to their suit and experience everything through their eyes. This narrow focus is utilized optimally to create the unbelievable tension. Cuaron's choreography of the action is amazing in these scenes. Never losing sight of what is going on and genuinely taking you by surprise at points. In what is essentially a disaster thriller, immersion like this is a prerequisite for a connection with the audience. And boy did it connect with me. There were scenes that had me gasping for air, scenes that made me feel claustrophobic and scenes that had me shifting in my seat, urging our heroine on. The coldness of space is apparently one of the scariest movie villains imaginable.
The fact that the very lean plot keeps bombarding the characters with problem after problem means that there are very few moments to come up for air. These days films apparently have to run for at least 2 hours, especially the bigger films. Gravity takes 90 minutes, the perfect length for a movie. It is stripped of practically everything, we get the smallest of backstories about the characters and the plot goes from A to B like it should, leaving behind only the intent of the film. To grab you by your throat and take you on a ride you'll never forget. All in the guise of an extremely realistic thriller set in space.
Cuaron does seem to want to give us some pinpricks of an underlying theme running through Bullock's character arc. Cuaron literally allows her to be reborn. There is, what is perhaps the most beautiful scene of the film, a shot where she floats like an embryo. The crying of a baby, Buddha smiling down on her and of course the final scene, all show a rebirth of Bullock's character. Some might feel this change to be a bit heavy handed, I absolutely loved it. It works, mainly because of a very understated performance by Bullock. I normally don't care much for her, but she was excellent here, especially in the quieter, more intimate moments.
Gravity manages to appeal to a primal fear. The fear of the absolute nothingness. The coldness of the grave, here in the shape of the final frontier. It is a constant threat, a constant presence. And the main reasons for it working the way it does are the dedication to realism and the sublime cinematography. The latter is where the main innovation seems to lie. The line between what is actually shot and what is digitally created is completely blurred here. Everything jumps off the screen with resounding beauty and clarity. It is awe inspiringly gorgeous. I am fully aware I am gushing out a ludicrous amount of praise now, but the beauty of what they have created here left me gaping at the screen and that just doesn't happen often.
Gravity is a small step for a film, but a giant leap for cinema.