"Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange." -Inception

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Movie Review: Gravity

I've been waiting for Gravity to release since I started my blog in September 2010.  The idea of a story set in space with only two main characters sounded so intriguing. How would director Alfonso Cuarón be able to pull it off? Three years later, I'm happy to report that the long wait was totally worth it.

Cuarón keeps the story simple and where it needs to be.  On a routine spacewalk, the crew of the Explorer is getting some repairs done.  They include rookie medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran mission commander Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) who's on his last mission.  Stone and Kowalsky have a ominous conversation. He states how he's never going to break the record for the longest spacewalk and Stone comments how she likes the silence in space.

Of course, things aren't going to go well after that. A satellite is destroyed in space, sending along the after effects of debris along their way.   The result is swift and brutal.  Just as suddenly, Stone and Kowalsky are alone in space with no shuttle and no support and a slim plan to make to the International Space Station and then back to Earth.

All this is easier said than done. The two astronauts battle valiantly against the elements and it's up to the first timer in space to be put up to the ultimate test.  I think this is Sandra Bullock's strongest role where she just connects on every level with the story, its theme and with the audience.  George Clooney is at his charming best where he becomes not only the wise mentor but the guide who centers the experience for us and for Ryan Stone. 

The purpose of 3D is for the audience to become a part of the film experience and it's never been more evident than in this film.  There are moments which might seem to some as gimmicky to show off the format say when the objects in the shuttle float by your face.  But when we become one (literally) with Dr. Stone as she tries to get her bearings in space, it became like no other experience I've had in the theater.

Avatar broke the mold and started the trend of groundbreaking 3D in films.  Hugo and Life of Pi followed suit and furthered it by showing what master directors like Martin Scorsese and Ang Lee can bring to the medium with their artistic vision. Alfonso Cuarón puts his own stamp on the medium by making Gravity the most engaging and visual 3D film we've seen.  He doesn't clutter the narrative with by showing us any action on Earth, of mission control or any loved ones left behind. It's all about the survival ordeal the astronauts face. 

And there's the gorgeous cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki where the visuals just about permeate into you forever.  My favorite shot in the film is when Ryan makes into the Russian shuttle after hitting rock bottom with her oxygen tank and rids herself of the spacesuit.  The visual invokes one of mankind's most fervent needs, to feel secure and protected, as one would in a womb.  It's the brief calm amidst the storm in space.

You will hear many things about Gravity. Some will like it, some won't.  It seems like an unusual experiment in cinema to some but it takes advantages of all the technological advances cinema has to offer today.  And for those of us who ever wondered what's it like to be in space and view down at Earth, Gravity is the closest we'll ever get to being out there.  

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón; Written by Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón; Cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki; Editing by Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger; Music by Steven Price.


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