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Review: Gravity – Sandra Bullock has the right stuff

Posted by on October 4, 2013 – 12:03 am

GravityHouston, we got 99 problems but Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, Gravity, ain’t one – this is the “Citizen Kane” of space films. As a fan of survival themed movies, I’ve been excited to see this film for some time, and I had pretty high expectations which I’m happy to say that Gravity has surpassed on all levels. Isaac Newton would be proud.

The plot of this film is about as simple as you can get, astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) are marooned in the Earth’s thermosphere after a cloud of space junk damages their space craft, cuts off communications with mission control and sets them adrift in the endless void. As they run out of time, air and equilibrium, the astronauts only have their wits and some modest technology keeping them from an almost certain death.

That’s it, don’t let anyone tell you too much about this remarkable film. Don’t watch the trailers, don’t go to the water-cooler and don’t surf the Internet until you see this movie for yourself – oh, and make sure you bring someone to cling to so you don’t fall off the edge of your seat, as this is one of the most incredibly intense films you will ever see.

On a technical level, the cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki is as beautiful as it is terrifying (you might want to bring along an airsickness bag), and the special effects are downright amazing. I can’t even guess as to how Cuarón and Lubezki accomplished the spectacular action you’ll see onscreen, but I’d bet money that Bullock and Clooney were actually filmed in space as these events took place – for real – that’s how good it is.

GravityAlfonso Cuarón is known for his lengthy unedited shots, but the opening salvo of Gravity takes this technique to a whole new level. In what is probably one of the most complex segments ever captured on film, Cuarón and Lubezki take the viewer on an uninterrupted ride that would stand up to anything at Six Flags – but twice as long.

George Clooney plays, basically, George Clooney in this film; the witty, confident professional that you’d want to have at your side if you were ever hopelessly stranded beyond Earth’s magnetic field. But it’s Sandra Bullock who has “the right stuff” in this movie and carries it for nearly every breathtaking moment of its ninety-minute running time – and she is certain to be an Academy Award contender come Oscar time. Additionally, in a fun twist, Ed Harris, who played real-life astronaut John Glenn in 1983′s “The Right Stuff,” does the voice of Mission Control.

This movie is everything a film should be. Beyond the excellent acting, nerve-wracking action and exciting cinematography, I also loved its eccentric subtleties and extreme attention to detail. You’ll probably want to see this film more than once, not only to thrill at the ride, but also to catch its many Easter eggs and marvel at its visual shrewdness.

GravityGravity is written by director Alfonso Cuarón and his son, Jonás, and it has been reported that as a child, Alfonso dreamed of being a filmmaker or an astronaut. I think one could say that with this movie he has, in a way, accomplished both of those goals very successfully.

I’m not a fan of 3D at the movies, and although Gravity has some decent 3D effects, I think I probably would have enjoyed it just as well without the annoying muddy glasses. The film is also available in IMAX, and though the screening I attended was on a regular-sized screen, it’s probably worth viewing on the larger format. Regardless of how you do it, just see this film; it’s easily one of the best so far this year. Grade: 9/10

Photos © 2013 Warner Bros.