Monday, October 7, 2013

Movie Review: Terrifying 'Gravity' a filmmaking triumph

This column was originally published in the KPC Media Group newspapers and online at Read the original column here. Republished on The Pop Tarts with permission. 

As much as I love science fiction, and as much as I support scientific exploration of the universe, the idea of outer space scares me. There's something incredibly unnerving about floating with very little between yourself and an airless void. One mistake can lead to instant death.

In "Gravity," that beautiful, oppresive expanse of space is the setting for a story that's as old as storytelling itself - one person's determination to overcome nearly unsurmountable odds to live just a little bit a longer.
"Gravity" tells the story of Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a specialist on a space mission. During a spacewalk with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a disaster destroys their ship and forces them to try to find a way to stay alive and return to Earth.

"Gravity" is a deceptively simple movie at its heart. Yes, there are incredible special effects, but the real marvel is how they don't feel like special effects at all. It's easy to fully immerse yourself into this movie, which is a blessing and a curse. It's a rare treat to be watching a movie that so fully envelopes you that you forget you're watching a movie, and I definitely had moments like that when watching "Gravity." The problem with it is that the movie is stifling, disorienting and tense, and it can get occasionally uncomfortable to watch. I actually got a little dizzy during a few scenes - there is a lot of spinning in the movie.

There's also something both beautiful and distressing about the way that director Alfonso Cuaron shoots every frame of this movie. There are many close-ups of the main characters that suddenly move to become immense wide shots that show the stifling infinity of space. He shoots from inside helmets that are fogging up as the astronauts pant in panic, despite the fact that each breath is closer to suffocating. And Cuaron uses long takes of many of the most uncomfortable scenes, ratcheting the tension up to almost unbearable levels.
But "Gravity" is one of those movies that is well worth the discomfort. It's an incredibly compelling character drama first and foremost, featuring spectacular performances by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Bullock, especially, shines as we watch her Dr. Ryan Stone blossom from scared first-time spacewalker to a terrified but strong woman determined to get back to Earth. We know very little about Ryan, although she does share a few heartbreaking details with her mission partner, but we don't need to know every detail. Her story is written in Bullock's every gesture, facial expression and movement. She has done a lot of good acting work in the past, but this is Bullock at her best.

"Gravity" is not necessarily the most entertaining movie I've seen this year, although there is something strangely fun about being so affected by a movie, but it's certainly the best film of the year so far. It's a transporting experience, and it really must be seen on the big screen. It's also a rare movie that really ought to be seen in 3-D, because Cuaron knows how to use the medium to enhance the moviegoing experience. There's a depth that Cuaron is able to get from the big screen and 3-D that will never, ever transfer onto a TV screen.

"Gravity" is a masterpiece of filmmaking, pure and simple. It's scary, tense, poetic and moving, all at the same time. But those words can't describe what an incredible experience it is to see this film. Put aside your reservations - most people have a few after seeing the terrifying trailers - and get yourself to the theater as soon as possible.

Jenny's Take: See it tonight.

(Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language. Runs 90 minutes.)

1 comment:

  1. Didn't have the best script in the world, but still worked so well with its visuals and overall, grand spectacle. Good review Jenny.