Gravity is unlike anything you’ve ever seen, and in today’s Hollywood that really resonates. Most movies I have seen before, and most movies you have seen before. There’s no doubt that variations of the film’s bare-bones story have been done before, but writer/director Alfonso Cuaron, in his first directorial effort since 2006’s outstanding Children of Men, has really set a new standard for visual effects and they way in which they can be utilized to completely immerse the viewer in the experience. This feels like space. This feels like a life-and-death ordeal. It’s an exhausting experience, and it feels real.
We’re thrown right into the action. A team of astronauts led by Matt Kowalski (Clooney) are doing repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope. It’s Kowalski’s final space walk and the very first for medical engineer Ryan Stone (Bullock). Everything is going as planned until Kowalski and the crew get word of an approaching debris field from a Russian missile strike on a defunct satellite. The debris wipes out the telescope and everyone but Kowalski and Stone. They are left, tethered together and floating into the darkness.
The script, by Cuaron and his son, Jonas, never eases up. We learn just enough to get going and enough to care about the players, but from there it is one catastrophe after another. Cuaron has built up quite the reputation for his amazing movement of the camera and unbroken shots (see the mind-bending five-minute tracking shot in Children of Men), and Gravity features some of the most amazing cinematography ever committed to film. The opening shot is thirteen minutes of unbroken perfection. We circle the telescope, view the Earth in amazing detail, and somehow never lose orientation. Cuaron always finds a new way to show us something. The artistry on display is simply astounding. Sandra Bullock has much of the film to herself and make for a convincing heroine. She’s confident in her skills but mortified at the thought of something going wrong. She is put through the ringer and turns in the best performance of her career. Clooney offers up some much-needed humor and keeps the action grounded with his calm demeanor.
Gravity does lose a bit of steam and becomes more predictable in the third act, but this is about as tightly-wound and suspenseful of a film as any of the past decade. It’s a textbook example of visionary filmmaking lifting an otherwise straight-forward disaster story to unseen heights. With Hollywood recycling and “rebooting” the same stories and sights more than ever, Gravity stands out as a spectacle not to be missed.
Studio: Warner Bros.
Length: 91 Minutes
Rating: PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.
Theatrical Release: October 4, 2013
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris (voice), Orto Ignatiussen (voice), Phaldut Sharma (voice)