TIFF 2013: Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, USA/UK)

As the most buzzed-about, big-budgeted deep-space anxiety attack here at TIFF, Gravity basally fits the bill as it falls flat in the realm of relatable emotionality. Focusing on a team of astronauts on the cusp of completing a characteristically labor-intensive Hubble Telescope repair, fast-traveling orbital debris looms threateningly on the horizon as time to act accordingly wears foreseeably thin. Soon enough, key players Dr. Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Lieutenant Kowalski (George Clooney) must restlessly pool their alarmingly sparse remaining resources if they’re to live to see another day.

Technical proclivity undeniably remains front-and-center throughout Cuarón’s viscerally arresting campaign for former glory, the film’s relentless intensity frequently overshadowing what could be described as cloying, moreover embarrassingly stock character building and humanistic tendencies. Spliced together with Clooney’s Kowalski’s wisecracking demeanor, the broader bits of accessible comedy aim to please an equally broad audience in occasionally awkward places. For all intents and purposes, Gravity‘s adherence to Dr. Stone’s latter trials and tribulations compel us to root for her, Bullock’s laudably taxing performance doing wonders for what’s otherwise an archetypal central character.

When taken into consideration as a solid contemporary cinematic venture, Gravity accomplishes what’s expected of it while noticeably stumbling along the way. A mostly unprecedented exercise in captivating setting-specific bombast and tension, the film’s merits palpably if barely outweigh the script’s shortcomings. In summary, Cuarón’s simply admirable exercise – if you’ll forgive the pun – aims for the stars but fails to capitalize on a marketing campaign that had me eagerly anticipating this title more than anything premiering at this year’s festival.

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