Gravity (2013) Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris. IMDB says: ”A medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space.”
Can I just urge all you readers to go see this in 3D or IMAX 3D or SUPER 4D Really Big Screen Loud Noises-D or whatever is playing in your area? I mean, coming from someone who actively avoids 3D whenever possible I think that comes off as a glowing endorsement and testament to the caliber of this film, right?
Intrigued? You absolutely should be. After hearing one glowing review after another for director Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film Gravity, I actually started to feel nervous about the project. James Cameron said somewhere that it might be the best science fiction film ever made. EVER MADE. With such eminent praise being layered thick on the film’s reputation, I feared disappointment. The movie’s glorious marketing effort, featuring both an aesthetically impressive setting and a worthy action setup, also left me feeling a bit weary as I worried the rest of the film wouldn’t really compare in terms of scope and tension. As someone who loves to be right, I have never been so happy, to be so wrong.
Gravity opens with a title card reminding us of the complete vastness, soundlessness, and emptiness of space. Seconds later, we are face to face with a small space team working up there in the void. Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) is the kind of guy that always has a story to tell and might test the boundaries of his team’s patience at times, but is clearly a man in control of his elements. He finds space both scientifically fascinating and seductively hypnotic. Medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) isn’t nearly as experienced with space flight, visibly nauseous and outwardly uneasy during the mission. There are only a few quiet moments with the team before they are directly impacted by a devastating freak accident that destroys their space shuttle and sends the crew adrift in space.
Remember that vastness, soundlessness, and emptiness we talked about? Even sitting and imagining that feeling for a few minutes safely behind a computer screen can feel a bit terrifying. But Cuarón doesn’t have to ask you to imagine a whole lot of anything with this film. From the moment you are dropped into deep space, the film’s stage engulfs the viewer and puts them right in the middle of the story. Those familiar with 2006′s Children of Men (another brilliant film directed by Cuarón) will remember the stunning tracking shots and camerawork that went into the making of that film. Gravity almost feels like one long tracking shot. Although I suspect I’m exaggerating that vision, the movie is overwhelmingly fluid. The camera rarely cuts to the next scene but instead travels around the actors and then into their point of view. Parts of the film feel like the most incredible video game you could ever experience. I can’t even begin to fathom the spectacular efforts behind the film making process. How often can you say that? How often can a film really feel like an entirely new experience? Gravity is something very special.
The direction and cinematography work in tandem to produce epic results but the visceral effect of the movie relies heavily on the pacing, tension and knock out performance from Sandra Bullock. The events of the film unfold into what feels like a series of meticulously choreographed measures, lingering just enough on the lead actress and the alarming action her character is in the middle of. While I can only hypothesize that the film’s scenes required plenty of calculated planning, Bullock comes across as the exact opposite, portraying a casual realism that truly sells the entire film. She has really proven herself here and I certainly wouldn’t be surprised to hear her name around Awards season.
A standout lead performance, heart-pounding tension and completely commanding visuals – it’s true that without one of these ingredients, the overall product would not be the same. But I’d like to add how phenomenal the use of 3D is in the movie. I never really endorse 3D viewings because I find it rare that a film’s visuals are greatly helped by that extra dimension but Gravity gets it done right. It’s the perfect setting for the technology, executed by a very talented artists and with a speedy 90 minute run time, it should be no problem for your eyeballs.
I feel somewhat strange heaping as much praise on this film as so many others that initially worried me but I just can’t find many flaws to pick out here. It’s the most thrilling movie I have seen in a very long time and served as a very welcome reminder of Alfonso Cuarón’s magnificent work. Gravity is a near-perfect cinematic achievement that any film fan should be rushing to the theaters to witness.