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New Review: Gravity (2013)
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, and Ed Harris as the voice of Mission Control
I've seen Gravity twice now, and I'm still at a loss for words. That's the kind of movie this is. Visually, the movie is impossibly stunning. As a thriller, it's heart-stopping and often times terrifying. As a drama, it's wrenching, haunting, and seamlessly acted. The movie is directed by the always exciting Alfonso Cuarón, whose resume consists mostly of great films, and with Gravity, he just might have made his crowning achievement. If we see a better movie released this year, I shall be truly impressed.
NASA medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first voyage into space. Accompanied by veteran commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), their mission is to make improvements to the Hubble Telescope. The mission is cut short, however, when their shuttle Explorer is struck by a Russian caused debris field that kills the rest of their ship's crew and sends Ryan spiraling out into space. Kowalski eventually saves her, but with the Explorer inoperable, they're forced to make their way to a nearby Russian Space Station in under 90 minutes, which is how long Kuwalski assumes it will take for the debris to complete an orbit and strike again.
Gravity spent four years in the making. Part of that was due to the fact that Cuarón had to wait until the special-effects technology was advanced enough to make the movie. It was certainly well worth it. Opening with a spell-binding 13-minute shot, which occasionally moves in for close-ups of Ryan and Matt and out again for majestic long shots, Gravityis more than just a great looking Space Movie. From the jaw-dropping, detailed shots of Earth (we can see city lights and, in one of the most enchanting moments in the film, the Aurora Borealis) to Emmanuel Lubezki's Oscar worthy cinematography (which floats weightlessly, like an unseen astronaut, along with the actors), the movie is so visually rich and textured that, for the 90 minutes the movie plays out, you almost forget that you're looking at special-effects. Cuarón could not have made a more convincing looking depiction of space if he got his actors and crew in a shuttle and sent them into orbit for filming, and there are moments where you can't help but wonder if he did exactly that (impossible, of course, but that's how phenomenal this movie looks).
And with Cuarón's signature long takes used during the action scenes, the movie is unbelievably intense. With shots that run 15 minutes at most, the movie ratchets up the tension in ways that would have been otherwise impossible with editing. Because the camera holds on the action for so long, we're sometimes left holding our breath for the duration of certain shots (hope you have a good set of lungs). Take the moment where Ryan has to make it to a nearby airlock while growing weak from breathing in CO2, or the scene where she has to release her escape pod's parachute cables, which are tangled up with the Russian Space Station, just as the debris field strikes again. Both moments are filmed in a single take, and both scenes will leave you squirming in your seat because of it.
Of course, all the technical prowess and state-of-the-art special-effects would mean nothing if we can't care about the story, and as sparse as the narrative for Gravity is, it certainly packs an emotional wallop. Essentially a two character piece, screenwriters Cuarón and his son Jonas write up leads so likable and well-defined that it's impossible not to root for them. Matt is the more laid back of the two, effortlessly keeping his cool through it all, even in the face of certain death (amusingly enough, he welcomes it because it means breaking a space walking record that has never been broken before). Ryan, on the other hand, is an emotional wreck. We learn that she had a young daughter at one time, until the child's life was tragically cut short via a freak accident on a playground. With this bit of background information established, Gravity becomes a beautiful and inspiring tale about loss and grief, and finding the strength to keep living even after tragedy knocks you down.
Clooney turns in one of his best performances as Matt, bringing his bottomless charm to the role and scoring the film's few genuinely funny moments. Bullock, however, is at the top of her game, turning in a performance so raw yet emotionally sincere that it ranks among her very best. Just take the scene late in the film when her escape pod runs out of fuel and she gets trapped in space, and she asks the man she hears on her radio to pray for her soul. In the hands of a lesser actress, this scene could have come across as schmaltzy and sappy, but Bullock is so heartbreaking, so focused, and so mesmerizing that it's bound to win her another Oscar.
Gravity does have a spiritual side to it, but it's much more thoughtful than most films that deal with spirituality. The film's spiritual angle adds considerably to the movie's message of hope, and it does so without shoving said message down your throat. I...honestly don't know what else to say about Gravity. The movie is so terrific in so many ways that I almost feel embarrassed to have written even this much about it. I've read some internet comments talking about how they'll never watch the film because it's basically "100 minutes of Sandra Bullock screaming 'Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh! Ahhh!'" I'm not sure why they assumed that about the film after watching a two minute trailer, but oh well. It's their loss.
Final Grade: **** (out of ****)
What did you think about this film? :)
Other Thoughts on Gravity (2013) :)
- Gravity Movie Review & Film Summary (2013) | Roger Ebert
- Overrated ‘Gravity’ Is Worst Sci-Fi Film of All Time - North America - Codewit World News
After hearing all the hype, I finally spent $10 at my local cinema and watched Gravity last night. I want my money back. This new space "thriller" starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock is probably the most overrated
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- Movie review: ‘Gravity’ is completely overrated and lacking in script and origin