Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Written by Alfonso Cuaron and Carlos Cuaron
Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
PG-13, 90 minutes
Darkness. The soundtrack builds into a deafening blare as the title card flashes. The sound becomes just about intolerable and then it suddenly stops, introducing us to an awe-inspiring shot of the Earth from space. This is how Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity begins, and it makes a hell of a first impression.
That impression doesn’t fade, and the very first shot of this movie goes on for about fifteen minutes. By the time we get our first cut, the space station Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are working on is destroyed and the two are left to their own devices in the most terrifying place to survive; space, the final frontier. The bad thing about new frontiers is that there is no one to help you if thing’s go wrong, and Gravity plays on this fear. It instills that anxiety with one of the very first title cards, expressing the truth that “life is impossible in space.” The rest of the film unfolds as a nail-biter where Dr. Stone and the astronaut must find a way back down to Earth safely.
At its very heart, Gravity is a thriller. When it keeps to that goal, the film succeeds in ways almost unimaginable. The lingering threat of Murphy’s Law runs rampant over the characters as everything that can go wrong for someone in space does. For fair stretches of the film, my stomach was in knots.
Unfortunately, and I never thought I would be saying this, when the movie plays catch up and tries to offer up moments where we get to dig beneath the surface of the two characters, Gravity can’t help but falter. I fully understand what is being accomplished with these flourishes, especially when it comes to Sandra Bullock’s character (she may share top billing with George Clooney as per the end credits, but this is her show all the way), but it can’t help but feel unneeded in a movie where the situation and how these characters negotiate it would be sufficient. It displays a level of sentimentality that it frankly doesn’t earn. Plus, the film’s overall message is at odds with the tagline on the poster.
Despite this, the visual effects work on display is beyond incredible. You should believe the hype in heeding everyone’s claims that seeing this movie in 3-D is necessary to fully appreciating some of the craft that went into it. I presume it is just as effective a thriller in regular projection but 3-D hasn’t been done this gracefully in many a moon.
Overall, Gravity is a very entertaining hour and a half at the movies that only gets slightly bogged down in sentimentality. I highly recommend seeing this film on the big screen, you won’t be let down.
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