Despite the fact that Sandra Bullock was not the first, or even fifth, choice for the role of Dr Ryan Stone, she seems to be hotly tipped to get another Oscar for her performance in Gravity. The first reviews for the Alfonso Cuaron film have been “out of this world.”
The stranded-in-space film that took five years to make it to the big screen, not only features cutting edge technology, but offers a performance from Bullock that has critics almost universally singing her praises.
The 49 year-old award-winning actress got an earlier gong for her performance in the 2009 “based on a true story” film The Blind Side. She then took a couple of years off for personal reasons; a messy and public split from her “reality show” husband and the adoption of her 3 year-old son Louis.
Bullock hit screens in the 2011 film Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, that had more than its fair share of top Hollywood talent, and got a few nominations for her efforts in the film, but no wins. When she starred with Melissa McCarthy in The Heat, she was part of a duo and the film was not really considered Oscar material.
Sandra then was cast in Gravity, a two actor spotlight film. Ed Harris does work in the film as the voice of Mission Control and he is the only other “heavy” presence in the movie. George Clooney is the “been there done that” space pro Matt Kowalski. It is his character’s job to help the space noob, Bullock, to learn about working for the first time in space.
After a shower of space debris shoots through and separates the two astronauts the film’s focus is character driven. But do not be deceived, space is the third character in the film and Sandra Bullock’s interaction with it is stunning.
It is down to the physical agility, Bullock was a high school athlete of note, of the actress that makes her weightlessness so real. The look of zero gravity was accomplished by a team of “puppeteers” who operated a 12 wire harness that the actors were strapped into.
The technology employed for the making of the film, a lot of which was invented because until now it did not exist, effortlessly blends CGI, reality and the actors in a mind blowing space spectacle. But special effects aside, Bullock has said that the appeal of her character came from the writing.
Alfonso Cuarón and his son, Jonás Cuarón, wrote the screenplay and Alfonso directed it. Sandra Bullock revealed that her character, Ryan Stone, had always been a woman. As she put it, the decision was not an “after-the-fact” act, like the character of Ellen Ripley in Alien. Stone had been a female from the get-to and she says it made all the difference in the playing of the role.
Considering that a lot of the screen time given both Bullock and her 52 year-old co-star George Clooney consists of partially concealed face shots, it is pretty amazing that her performance has been singled out as being of Oscar winning quality.
Alfonso has said that one reason that they had so many problems getting a cast sorted out for the film was that they needed actors who were visually identifiable. They needed a certain type who could be identified by just a glimpse of their face.
Eventually they settled on Bullock and Clooney, who was also not the first choice for his role either. While not a lot has been said about the quality of his performance in the film, his co-star has gotten raves for her work. Gravity seems to have given the actress the means to pick up yet another Oscar for a performance. The film itself has gotten so many great reviews from critics that it may also do very well come Academy Award time.
By Michael Smith