Saturday, October 5, 2013

Gravity - Theatrical Review

Gravity (2013)
Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller, 90 minutes
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and the voice of Ed Harris

Many people don't take science fiction seriously, but here's a movie that might work for those who don't usually like the genre. There are no aliens, unknown worlds, monsters, or laser shootouts. This is a movie that's set in the real world, or more accurately, above it.

The story opens with a George Clooney voice-over. We meet astronauts working to repair a satellite. This shows how calm such a silent world can be. I reluctantly saw the movie in 3D, but this was one occasion that I came away feeling that it added to the experience. It almost made me dizzy seeing Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (Clooney) go about their routine business with Earth looming large in the background. Indeed, the cinematography was breathtaking throughout the 90 minutes.

I don't want to give away too many details, but if you have seen the trailer or even looked at the poster, you'll know that this movie is far from being a calm ride. An accident sends debris racing toward the astronauts like some kind of deadly shrapnel. What follows is a story about the strength of the human spirit, and the will to survive against all odds. Remember that the word gravity has more than one meaning.

While I enjoyed Sandra Bullock's performances in The Blind Side and Speed, I would hardly describe myself as a fan. However, I left the theater thinking that she carried the whole movie, and it's easily the most accomplished performance of her career.

Alfonso Cuarón directed Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men, and the best Harry Potter movie (Azkaban), but this is comfortably my favorite from his impressive portfolio. The story is lean, gripping, thoughtful, thrilling, scary, breathtaking, beautiful, and emotional, and feels perfectly paced at every point. He doesn't insult us by giving too much exposition, and that draws us deeper into the story. His use of extreme close-ups is another reason we are drawn to these characters. It's hard to avoid feeling that you are a part of the movie.

As I watched, I thought of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Moon, Apollo 13, Cast Away, Alien, and a few other great movies. Cuarón lets us see his characters thinking, and that's a good thing. Remember that astronauts are not selected because they are stupid or incapable of adapting in extreme situations. I'm always impressed when I see a movie which takes the trouble to show how people really think. It's not an easy thing to do well. This choice works perfectly and helps the whole story succeed because it's so believable.

Although the visuals dazzled on a regular basis, my favorite shot in the whole movie was Sandra Bullock in the fetal position. It jumped out at me as being so appropriate for the scene, and it was a stroke of genius. You'll know what I mean when you see it. The opening titles remind us that there is no sound in space, just as Kubrick depicted almost 50 years ago.

I admire this movie so much that I would happily watch it again tomorrow. It's a wild 90 minutes. I left the theater feeling as if it was an effort to be back in the real world. I was totally immersed in the story to the point of being almost unable to function when it was over. I'm glad I had a long walk back to the car so that I could catch my breath.

There are so many reasons to see this movie, even if you hate science fiction. It won't be forgotten when the awards season arrives. See it immediately. I would even go as far to say you should see it in 3D.

Overall score 5/5

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  1. So happy that this movie is doing great. Can't wait to see it. Would LOVE to see Cuarón pick up Best Picture. Nice review!

  2. I went and saw it immediately after reading your review, so thanks for putting me onto it. It's definitely worthy of a Best Picture win. Gravity is sure to go down as a classic in future :)

    1. Ben,

      Thanks for that. Few people ever give me feedback about anything I may have influenced them to see. I'm glad it wasn't a waste of your time. I may have to see it again in a few weeks.

  3. Good review Steve. It was a good movie, however, I'm very close to calling it a great one. The only set-back, I feel, is that the script just didn't do much and was a bit too conventional for my own good.

    1. I would have liked to have spent more time there, but I thought it was gripping throughout.

  4. I rurally like Sandra Bullock. In movies like The Blind Side, Speed, A Time to Kill, and The Proposal she demonstrates a likeability that has pushed those films to be huge box office hits. Her personality is put to good use here and it’s that appeal that draws us in.

    Great review!

    1. The Blind Side was my favorite Bullock performance before this. I hope she continues to challenge herself.