Gravity

Gravity photo starrating-4stars.jpgGravity is 2013’s most visually impressive feature. Right from the beginning, director Alfonso Cuarón seizes attention with jaw dropping views of the cosmos. Astronauts lazily float in space suits while the big glowing blue sphere of Earth looms in the background. Only the sounds of human breathing and electronic blips of communication can be heard. The spectacle is akin to actually floating in space along with our protagonist. There is a feeling of paralysis, of dizziness and weightlessness simply from the cinematography. It’s a dreamy experience. The production’s greatest triumph is that it puts you there, in the moment, and the effect is exhilarating. Let me be clear. This movie absolutely positively demands to be seen in a cinema on a huge screen, preferably on the largest IMAX available. 3D doesn’t hurt either. Yes, I have admittedly not cared for 3D technology in the past. Indeed 99% of the time it is a cash grab to jack up ticket prices to gouge the viewer for more money. Gravity is that rare exception that justifies the format.

The plot is simple. The Explorer shuttle is on a mission. Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and scientist turned astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are on a spacewalk to repair the Hubble Space Telescope. Elsewhere at that second Russia has deliberately destroyed one of its own defunct spy satellites. The resulting debris hurtles through the universe towards our pioneers. The shrapnel hits their shuttle disabling everything leaving Kowalski and Stone stranded. That’s the story.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney essentially portray versions of themselves. Clooney is a confident flirt who audibly plays country music inside his spacesuit. He is a raconteur regaling everyone with his stories. The visuals are so mind-blowing, occasionally I kind of wish he would stop telling anecdotes over the gorgeous scene. Bullock in contrast is sensitive and nervous – unsure of this foreign atmosphere. She’s disarming. We identify with her immediately because she is us. She is the story’s sentimental heart. With the effects vying for our interest, her performance is extraordinary because she captivates our concern. The eye popping displays become secondary when she’s speaking.  We focus on her. It’s a remarkable achievement given the environment.

There are occasions where the director’s hand is evident. A single solitary tear cascades down Bullock’s cheek as a glistening globule and into the crowd watching with 3D glasses. At one point, Bullock strips off her astronaut suit revealing her amazingly toned body. She pauses in the fetal position like an embryo in the safe cocoon of her spaceship. The back-story she volunteers involving her daughter, comes across like a shortcut to emotional profundity. Although it doesn’t attempt the same philosophical depth, Gravity clearly owes a visual debt to 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s in very good company – one of the few instances where space exploration is so tangible as to make us feel as if we’ve honestly been to the outer limits.

Alfonso Cuarón does a virtually flawless job in creating a you-are-there moment in space. Through cinematography, the actor’s movements and special effects, the genuine sensation of weightlessness is achieved better than in any film since, well since ever. Edits are few and far between. More prolonged camera takes do wonders at lulling the audience into a state of euphoria. There’s no sound in outer space, so even explosions are silent. There is a score however and the musical crescendos underscore major events. Sumptuous and beautiful, Gravity frequently makes you lose your breath due to the majesty that hypnotically unfolds before us. Space itself is the antagonist. It is a thrill ride with the human drama of survival at its center. Gravity is an awe inspiring picture and a potent reminder why it still remains preferable to see a film in a theater than on an iPod.

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37 Responses to “Gravity”

  1. My god you have my attention. I’m seeing this tomorrow (I turn 16 the next day). So goddamn excited.

  2. You described it very well, without giving too much away. I’m one of those who threw a perfect rating at it.

  3. Gregory Skala Says:

    Dear Beth, Does this movie interest you?

    Love, G

  4. Definitely needs to be seen on the big screen, just in order to be believed. Good review Mark.

  5. Nice review. I was planning to watch Gravity last weekend, but missed the screening. I’m hoping to check it soon though, especially since I loved Cuaron’s Children of Men.

  6. Awesome! Fantastic review, Mark. Great, great write-up- Can’t wait to see this!

  7. couldn’t agree more

  8. Well said. Thought this was a simply phenomenal film. What Cuaron has just laid down here is cinematic gold. i can totally see some of the (only) criticism against it, that the story falls rather routine and the arc is predictable . . . . but barring these very picky things this film is a rare kind. It’s right now between this and Rush for best pic for me!!

    • I’d put Rush higher. For sheer emotional drama, it captivated me more. Gravity has the ‘wow’ factor though. The spectacle was beyond compare.

      • GaryLee828 Says:

        I won’t be watching anymore Ron Howard films since he so grossly inaccurately portrayed Max Baer as a heartless villain in “Cinderella Man”. Since Cinderella Man gave off the impression it was based off of true material then audiences leave it thinking that Max Baer was a monster who reveled in killing his opponents in the ring, etc.

        But factually Max Baer was psychologically damaged and tormented after accidentally killing his opponent in the ring; it was far from intentional. He had recurring nightmares about the event – and he even gave money to the family of his deceased opponent, primarily intended for the son’s schooling.

        Max Baer’s son was outraged with how nefarious his father was displayed in the film, but Ron Howard shrugged it off. Max Baer is dead, so is not around to defend his name. Ron Howard is a despicable human being that would rather make a buck by inaccurately assassinating a deceased man’s character merely in attempt to up the drama, than to honor the dead and get the story right.

        If you recall in Michael Mann’s “Ali” film, George Foreman was the formidable boxer Ali had to face – and there was no over- dramatical, evil villain portrayed. Foreman was simply a tough opponent – and that is enough. The story was about Ali, and his journey; and “Cinderella Man” was about Jim Braddock and his journey.

        But somehow Ron Howard felt Braddock’s true-story journey wasn’t enough and that he had to take a real character and add fictional elements to make the story better. So, the great depression wasn’t a big enough antagonist. Trying to find work and feeding your family wasn’t enough of a struggle. So, he felt the need to take a non-fiction character and add fictional attributes to turn him into a monster. And b/c the film is advertised as a “biography”, people believe everything in the movie is true, including the portrayal of Baer.

        For these reasons I won’t watch anymore Ron Howard films. I wouldn’t be surprised if “Rush” is also littered with inaccuracies.

      • It’s been years since I saw Cinderella Man but my recollection was that I really enjoyed the film. I think most people realize that any film presented as biography is going to have dramatic elements to increase tension. Martin Scorsese’s Raging Bull is far from flattering. Oliver Stone’s JFK is filled with inaccuracies. Not saying that it’s good to play with the truth, only that if you get mad at Ron Howard for doing it, you should hold every director accountable.

      • GaryLee828 Says:

        I know there are some inaccuracies in other “true story” films, but the one in CM was more than just an inaccuracy; it completely portrayed a character in the wrong light and provoked audiences to see a deceased person in a completely different manner than how he really was.

        I definitely acknowledge other films inaccuracies if I learn about them and feel they negatively affect the film; “Remember the Titans” used to be one of my favorite movies, until I learned how the end was complete fiction. While watching it I was under the impression it was a true story. They didn’t win the championship on the last play of the game, but actually blew out the other team. But yet the movie’s goal is to have you celebrate at the end as if they just pulled out a huge upset and won on the last play of the game. Also, the player referred to “Sunshine” didn’t try to kiss one of the players in the locker room, and so I thought that was also way out of context and completely unnecessary considering it was simply tacked-on for no reason. So, learning those things I no longer enjoy watching the film.

        But the big difference here is that not only did CM give an inaccurate portrayal of events that took place, but they took it up a couple notches and made a decent man look like an evil, nefarious person; that kind of thing should never be acceptable.

  9. Wow can’t wait to see this movie now! Sounds really good from your description. I will go see it in cinema rather than renting it from iTunes. I was hoping this movie would be good from the good cast for this movie.

    I’m just starting up my new blog and would love to get some feedback on it. http://emmagallagher23.wordpress.com/

  10. In IMAX this was an awesome spectacle. I really felt like I was in space. Unbelievable effects! I like Sandra and George in this movie, but I didn’t really connect with them. Still, a must see. 4 stars.

  11. Gravity really blew me away. From the moment it started until the final scene I was completely and utterly hooked. Its story is thrilling and compelling despite its simplicity, plus its main character is one with depth you can easily root for. I normally don’t care for 3D either, although Gravity makes it worth your while. The special effects are amazing and the edits are brilliantly concealed so that everything feels like a constant experience. This might be the most realistic movie set in space that I’ve seen.

    • Most realistic – I would agree.

      I have to mention Neil deGrasse Tyson’s take however. The American astrophysicist ripped apart Gravity for inaccuracies on Twitter. He mentions the kinds of things that don’t make a difference to me in a piece of filmed entertainment, but he was brutal. Ha ha.

  12. GaryLee828 Says:

    I saw this in IMAX 3D and thought the graphics were pretty amazing. I love 3D when it’s done right. Thus far only this and “Avatar” have gotten 3D right. Every other 3D experience has been disappointing. I’m definitely looking forward to the “Avatar” sequels and seeing what new stuff James Cameron will come up with. The next “Avatar” sequel is set to take place under water, so I can only imagine how magnificent it will look.

    • Yes there are a small handful of films where the 3D actually improves the film. I agree with you on Avatar. I thought Life of Pi and Hugo also benefited from the format. But that’s about it.

      • GaryLee828 Says:

        Yes, Life of Pi was great; unfortunately I watched it in 2D as the 3D wasn’t playing at the time I went. Great film, nonetheless.

  13. This was definitely one of the most thrilling and intense movies of this year, although I don’t know if it’s going to have the same energy when I’ll watch it again.

  14. I have not gotten a chance to see this film. In fact, I thought the movie looked kind of silly when I had originally watched the trailer. I was mistaken! I’ve seen several reviews on the film, but your review was absolutely enthralling! You have such a way with words; I really admire your writing skills and so wish to attain such passion for my blog. I will be sure to see this film, hopefully in theaters, if not, I do hope an HD TV will do! Thank you so much for such a thoughtful post! 🙂

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