Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is a big movie–breathtaking in its scope and impressive in its vision. Most of the praise Gravity received upon its release focused on its visual effects and cinematography. (All of which undeniably deserved. . . the amount of work put into bringing Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón’s script to life is a feat unto itself.) The technical complexity overshadowed the screenplay, which is much simpler in comparison, but nevertheless an excellent example of suspenseful, cinematic writing.
The Cuaróns’ story is stripped down to its essential elements: three named characters, not too many more speaking roles, a 70-page script turned into a 90-minute movie. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock at her best), an astronaut who gets stranded in space after the Explorer shuttle is unintentionally destroyed, just wants to survive and make it back to Earth alive. The narrative is broken up into smaller goals: get to a nearby space station, reestablish communication with Earth, and make it to the International Space Station, to name a few. Like most survival narratives, it’s easy to root for a Dr. Stone and hope she makes it to safety, and even without the visuals, the script works remarkably well–in fact, the words by themselves almost help the story feel even more claustrophobic.
At the very least, Gravity is one of the greatest visual spectacles ever made. But along the way, Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón created a decidedly human story with an unassuming but nevertheless impressive narrative.