The theme of the film is isolation. Alfonso Cuaron, the Mexican director who previously did, “Children of Men” is interested in exploring futures where almost all hope is lost. The premise begins with a space walk gone bad, which is a plausible enough scenario to bring realism to this science-fiction story.
George Clooney plays his supporting role with a spot-on insouciance that suits him well. His devil-may-care attitude is balanced by the sharply serious “gravity” of Bullock’s character. When the situation turns dire, the theme of isolation is a constant.
The isolation that defines deep space, and some of the surreal elements of complete separation from all aspects of life as we know it are shown as the underlying subjects of this movie. There is action, and intense drama at times that remind us of some of the most basic requirements of all good story-telling. There is the drama of man vs nature and man vs himself, and these are enough to hold us in our seats to see how it all plays out.
Bullock is the unquestionable star of the piece, as she must hold our attention through the greater part of the film. We are reminded of some of the better space dramas that play out, but in the end, this film has more in common with Stephen Crane’s short story, “The Open Boat.” Those who have read it may remember that even though the survivors are alive in an open boat on the sea, there is still grave doubt as to their survival.
The reason “The Open Boat” comes to mind is the fact that we are left wondering exactly what did happen in the latter part of all this. We are left to wonder where the storied elements blend with realism to create a real or imagined end. That is very much a trademark of Cuaron’s direction, as we watch the “gravity” of the events unfold.