Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gravity



Yes, it's been over two months since my last review, though that wasn't exactly by choice. If there had been some good movies to review (and if I wasn't so busy with school) I probably would have reviewed another film well before now. This particular project has always been on my radar and I knew I was going to find time to cover it upon its release. I've followed the production of Gravity since before casting was finalized, back when Robert Downey Jr. was set to star in the role that eventually fell to George Clooney. I knew Alfonso Cuaron's work (yes, primarily from the third Harry Potter film) and I had a feeling this film would be something special. However, after hearing rumors of production delays I was beginning to worry that the film might not pan out, or at least might fall short of its potential... well, rest assured that all of my doubts were quelled within the first ten seconds.

Gravity is a film primarily set in space, with a small group of astronauts working on the Hubble telescope orbiting Earth. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) doesn't have much experience being out in space, though she admits to her uber-confident companion, Matt Kowalski (Clooney), that she actually enjoys the silence. Everything appears to be going smoothly until Houston warns the astronauts of oncoming space debris caused by a destroyed Russian satellite. With orders to abort the mission, Kowlaski and Dr. Stone scramble to put away their equipment and return to the shuttle as shrapnel begins to tear the vessel apart. Still attached to an arm of the shuttle, Dr. Stone is hurled into space, tumbling uncontrollably and crying out in vain for rescue.

I'm a bit late to the game with my review of Gravity, but hopefully I can still find something to say about it that hasn't already become a cliche. The intensely dramatic opening to this movie (all contained in one stunning 12-minute uninterrupted sequence) instantly clutches the viewer and never relents until the closing credits. This film's unique setting and tone would be original enough to garner praise from me even if the tension and the emotion weren't perfected in the way they are in this movie. Alfonso Cuaron does a masterful job of balancing all aspects of this production, never letting the spectacular visuals overshadow or undermine the peril of outer space. There's a terrific juxtaposition between silence and destruction such as the chaos of a space shuttle being torn apart being accompanied by only the hyperventilating of the powerless astronauts.

This is one of the most thrilling films I've seen in a really long time, but it's also an incredibly emotional and moving story of a woman struggling to survive while questioning whether she even wants to. It's so impressive that both of these things can exist in the same movie, though it strangely mirrors the seeming contradiction of the expansiveness and yet claustrophobic environment the story is set. While the direction is spot-on, the performance of Sandra Bullock (who deserves serious Oscar consideration) and the powerful score are what really make those moments unforgettable.

At the risk of going into spoilers, I'll cut myself off at this point. Suffice it to say that Gravity is one of the most enveloping movie-going experiences I've ever had. It's terrifying, moving, and exhilarating at different times in the film while seamlessly transitioning from one emotion to the next. It's a movie that has to be seen on a big screen and (I can't believe I'm actually saying this) in 3D to fully appreciate the majesty of the visuals. This movie is daring and revolutionary, and I'll go ahead and say it's possibly the best movie of the year. If you couldn't tell, I definitely recommend Gravity and I give it a full four stars.

GRAVITY is rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language