Movie Review: Gravity

I came a bit late to the party on this one, but finally saw it in 3D (not in IMAX, unfortunately) a couple of days ago.

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Starring:
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter & The Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men)
Rating: M
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Fans of the Harry Potter film adaptations will likely be familiar with (and grateful for) the talents of Alfonso Cuaron. The visionary Mexican director was responsible for bringing the third chapter of that saga, Prisoner of Azkaban, to the big screen back in 2004. Many film critics are of the opinion that Azkaban is the best in the series (personally, I think only Deathly Hallows Part II trumps it) and it isn’t hard to see why when you watch the film. Since that notable achievement, however, Cuaron has been rather quiet on the feature front, with only his highly praised 2006 effort Children of Men coming out since then. Until now, of course. Now we have Gravity, a visual experience with typically ambitious Cuaron touches (I love that we can say that now). It’s very, very good.


Gravity tells the story of Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a hospital technician with minimal astronautical experience who we find in the middle of fixing… something presumably only she can fix, assisted by an ageing spacewalker on his last mission, played with usual charm by George Clooney. Immediately it is obvious from watching the opening in 3D (something that is, as shocking as it sounds, pretty much essential in this case) that this film is visually something special. The special effects in this film are nothing short of a new benchmark for realism and the third dimension actually enhances this rather than taking away from it. The most banal of actions are rendered both fascinating and beautiful by these effects as well as by Cuaron‘s love of inventive camera shots. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki‘s work here is stunning. And then there is the moment that drives the plot – a storm of rogue debris that cuts the pair’s shuttle to shreds and strands them with very limited oxygen. That moment – I mean, wow.

Gravity oscillates between sequences of serene beauty and furious, harrowing action, and it isn’t just the visuals that make this dichotomy work so well. The sound design in Gravity is absolutely fantastic, balancing Steven Price‘s tactful score (which wisely avoids the BBWWWAAAMMs of most post-Zimmer action sequences these days) with some crystal-clear, endlessly horrifying sound effects. Physics is the biggest villain in Gravity and sound is paramount to conveying that. There’s also something to be said about the way silence is implemented in different ways throughout, in service of different goals.

As with any movie featuring only two on-screen characters, performance quality carries the film. Fortunately, Bullock and Clooney are amazing in Gravity, each actor working off an established Hollywood charm established years ago to lend some humanity to the unforgiving alien setting. Bullock in particular gives one of her best ever performances, if not her best, calling on a wide range of emotions and keeping the survival story relatable. This is important, as Gravity has the tendency to demand quite a bit of suspension of disbelief from its audience and breaks the illusion of realism on occasion.

There isn’t all that much more to say about Gravity. At times it might seem to move too slowly for some but considering its remarkably brief 91 minute run time, this isn’t really an issue. Not since Avatar in 2009, or maybe Hugo in 2010, have I seen a movie in 3D and thought “Well, that needed to be seen like that”. And yet Gravity is a rare beast: a film that evokes just that reaction. This isn’t a case of waiting for the Blu-Ray release, it should be seen now if at all possible. So please, dear reader, if the idea behind Alfonso Cuaron‘s latest takes your fancy, go see it. You will not regret your decision.

THE VERDICT

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Good:
Masterfully shot, artfully acted, terrific sound design, relatable narrative
Bad:
A bit unrealistic
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4.5 VsI N C R E D I B L E

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