Let’s start with some one word movie reviews for “Gravity”: Immersive. Intense. Beautiful. Suspenseful. Traumatizing. Inspiring. Tragic. Therapeutic. Brilliant. Masterpiece.
Now some two word movie reviews for “Gravity”: Superbly acted. Agonizingly realistic. Picture window. Instant Classic. New standard. Hyperboles needed.
And finally, three word movie reviews for “Gravity”: See it now. Tell your friends.
Simply put, I have never before experienced anything like Alfonso Curon’s “Gravity” in a theater. It’s a visceral, cerebral experience that will leave you as close to a new person as a survivalist thriller possibly could. Standing somehow feels different, as if one floated and spun in the vacuum of space for 90 minutes. It not only makes the audience feel they are alongside the actors, but due to some nifty video-game-like first person effects, you’ll often feel like you are the actors. This is by design both in the characterizations as well as the expert direction. The man who previously stamped his name on “Children of Men” and “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” set out to make a game-changer, and he quite clearly succeeded. Not to take anything away from “Children of Men,” by the way, which is, critically speaking, probably an even better movie. But where “Children of Men” had more to say in terms of the human condition and humanity’s future, “Gravity” is concerned with now, with the moment, and that experience. Both films are monumental achievements that need to be seen.
One big note: “Gravity” almost certainly requires being seen on the largest IMAX screen possible, and yes, in 3D. To my delight, the same 3D tag I usually deride so much as a money-making gimmick that adds little films has for once been perfectly utilized. Outside of perhaps James Cameron’s Avatar, there’s never before been a film to explore 3D to such great effect, and to add so much to not just the atmosphere but even the central themes. A smaller screen will certainly still provide an impressively intense experience, but if you want to feel like you are in the movie, this one is worth shelling out the cash for.
“Gravity” is incredibly effective from the opening shot, a beautiful moment of silence as the Earth slowly drifts into view to fill up the screen. I swore I was looking through an actual window out in space, never before has an image resonated with such realistic clarity. Not long after the main plot kicks into gear, and it’s almost non-stop intensity until the end. Curon again shows his flair for impossibly lengthy one-takes, where the action seems to unfold in real-time and the camera never cuts away. The first shot of “Gravity” continues for over 17 minutes before ever changing to a different view. Imagine a top-notch amusement park ride done by one of the most talented film-makers to work a camera, add in top-level acting and score, and you have an idea of how effective this is. The camera is a character in itself, floating over and around our astronauts continuously. When it isn’t, its weaving in and out of direct point-of-view, or drifting back to deliver some of the most lush, astounding visuals ever put on a screen.
In the brief moments of calm, we get to know our main characters, portrayed by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Bullock provides the role of her entire career, sure to win over all but her most harsh critics. She’s empathetic, inspiring, and above all a realistic every-man (or at least, as close to one as there could be in the situation). An Oscar nomination is almost guaranteed. Clooney provides his usual dependable charm, and although not a lot is asked of him for the role, the comic relief is perfectly applied, allowing the audience some much-needed break from the consistent tension and suspense. Although not without moments of obvious fiction, a great effort was made to add realism to the proceedings, resulting in aspects such as explosions making no sound. This adds an element of horror that was very unexpectedly delightful. In place of the usual BOOM! BANG! BLAM! the score by Steven Price is there to guide the audience emotions. He nails it. From the quiet, ambient moments to the rush of adrenaline he pumps into the action-heavy scenes, it’s a fantastic companion right up through the majestic climax.
One might think that will all this focus on providing an immersive experience for the film-goer, that the story and themes would be underdeveloped. The story is fairly simple, yes. It’d be easy to dismiss it at that, but I would argue that making it more complicated would have taken much away from the universal reliability of the situations we find ourselves in. In only brief moments do we feel that Curon’s theme’s are being too forcefully applied (One spot is most obvious. Hint: it features a character talking to themselves). Most of the time, he lets the images do the talking, allowing for subtle but unmistakable moments of levity. There are several images from this film that I haven’t gotten out of my mind, replaying over and over. I was also pleased to find out that the main conflict/disaster in the film is based off of real concerns with space exploration. The metaphors are plenty, and they add up to so much more than you’d expect. The intensity is almost too much to take at times, and that’s surely the most obvious thing anyone will notice, but I was pleased in how much emotion could be stirred up. It’s a deeply effecting film on multiple levels, leading it to be all to easy to forget one is watching a film.
I could go on, but instead I’ll fall back to another one word review for “Gravity”: