Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Running Time: 1 hrs 30 mins
Release Date: October 4, 2013
PLOT: Astronauts (Bullock and Clooney) stranded in space must overcome the environment’s challenging conditions.
WHO’S IT FOR? If you like movies, here’s one that’s going to change things for you. If you love space, you should already be in line.
EXPECTATIONS: Aside from the hype that has been put on this film by the likes of James Cameron and Guillermo del Toro, Gravity is also hyped for being the first feature film from Children of Men director Alfonso Cuaron since 2007. Knowing Cuaron, at the very least, I expected to see some beautiful visuals.
Sandra Bullock as Ryan: Our surrogate into Cuaron’s extreme outer space experience, Bullock is a excellent at providing a believable kind of fear – including the odd sounding huffing of air that come with life-or-death desperation (“Ah! Ah! Ah!”) For such a strong performance it is a shame (or probably a conspircy) that her character is sometimes working with mopey material. No matter how well Bullock delivers these moments, even she can’t make these duller moments as sincere as other things happening in the film.
George Clooney as Kowalski: Despite what his collection of recognizable roles may indicate, Clooney is not an actor who plays the same character over and over, but he is one who can get work for the instilled instant gravitas he carries to whatever costume he is stuffed into. Here, Clooney is used for his charming flirtiness, offering a more laid-back idea of a space explorer than that to Bullock’s anxious novice. His comic relief comes in handy for some moments, and given a smaller palette to work with than Bullock, he never oversteps his bounds.
TALKING: Fitting that sounds do not exist in space, as words are not this movie’s best ally. For one, the opening text giving a heads up about the condition of space deceives what follows by setting a tone that is cheesy, not eerie. This is then later continued by the film’s dialogue, which may be spare, but quickly denigrates from cleverly revealing character back-story to providing such Earth coverage desperately. Despite the super insane-o visuals of many moments, even a thematically important monologue in the third act feels tacked on, as if investors required Gravity feature externalization to make the story’s appeal even wider. With these moments, and in the face of other isolated survival movies, one wishes Gravity would match the silence of space and leave the talking to the actors’ faces, who only need their heads to believably pop out of CG spacesuits to provide essential emotional charisma.
SIGHTS: The visuals of Gravity, its crowning donation to the art form that has given it life, are indisputably wonderful. This film provides the strong example that CG can be matched with live-action to justify reality – from the fantastically choreographed scenes to the extreme details in every space explosion, to the shots that take the viewer’s perspective from third person to first person. The editing is so fluid that while Gravity may be mostly a set of extensive takes mixed up with some briefer shots, the entire gizmo might as well be one big sequence, the Russian Ark of space films, if you will. Along with this, Gravity is the rare type of film that is able to introduce a new anxious sensation for moviegoers. The nightmares presented, in which characters are falling, flying, and floating through space, (created with filmmaking that seems impossible) provide instinctive feelings never before poked by a film.
SOUNDS: Filling in for sound design is a score from Steven Price that uses strings as its sole form of percussion. There are no blaring timpanis or horns to make this a bombastic experience, but climactic strings that rise with heart rates. Price’s music is an impressive soundtrack, but it’s usage for certain moments is less agreeable; the same can be said for a shriek or two, straight from a horror movie sound design kit, that must be there to overcompensate the fear that Gravity engineers.
BEST SCENE: That opening shot everyone will be talking about.
ENDING: She learns to stand on her own two feet … oh …
QUESTIONS: How the hell did they make this? Was this the most intense ADR Bullock and Clooney have ever had to do?
REWATCHABILITY: Whatever story flaws there may be, of course this is worth seeing again. I’ve already got my IMAX tickets for opening weekend.
Its visual awe as indisputable as its placement towards the top of a pile categorizing sci-fi film’s best achievements, Gravity does what a very rare amount of films can do: it introduces a new type of cinematic experience. Through POV shots: falling, floating, and most importantly, floating through space. This is a film that physically takes viewers to an environment beyond regular comprehension, and with beautiful scope — a silent Earth always peeking in from the background, the sun providing deceptive light in a cold and unforgiving atmosphere.
Such perfection only makes its setbacks all the more unfortunate — not enough at all to ruin the experience of the film, but enough to be obvious when the story is pushing the audience along, instead of grabbing hold. With so much knowledge to be seen in its representation of space exploration, Gravity becomes an example of a setback that apparently does exist — the difference between being knowledgeable and clever. It’s precisely recreated space craft (with detail that goes beyond single viewing comprehension), used for a space tale of leap frog that relies more on dumb luck overcoming close calls than smarts. There’s even a moment in the midst of its peril in which Bullock’s life relies on pushing the correct random button, and hopes that it is the right one (were there no red & blue wires that needed cutting?). Thankfully, for the future of this technology that will continue to explode our minds into little pieces of brain matter, Cuaron’s grandiose space tale is created in the exact opposite fashion.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10