Review: Gravity

Don Malvasi

A magician masquerading as a filmmaker, Alfonso Cuaron delivers a fim experience that shakes our senses while it wows our sensibilities. Suspense hangs in nearly every frame of the tight 90-minute Gravity, one of the rare films that is a must-see in 3-D. Space travel serves as the ultimate backdrop for not only physical survival but as a barren landscape upon which to rebel against the notion of man being a mere speck in the grand ether. It’s always been so within this genre, only Cuaron works wonders instilling the dreadful feeling that at any given moment almost anything can happen.

Stylistically, space’s enormity vies with and simultaneously complements the severity of the predicament of space travel novice, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). The larger and more empty the landscape, the greater and more dramatic the immersive shift to the hard realities seen from the interior viewpoint inside her space helmet. At risk of coming off claustrophobic in a film where the majority of the scenes have the actors inside their helmets, Cuaron and company hold sway over the project. It’s ironic that the film is presenting new systems of technical virtuosity almost incidentally. You’ll be so immersed in both beautiful and terrifying images, you’ll eventually stop trying to figure out how Cuaron pulled this off. Starting with a dazzling 13-minute opening single shot, you soon realize the film isn’t so much out to test technologies as to test our ability to withstand anxiety, and perhaps, to test our souls.

On hand as a razzing, lovable, yet do-or-die, no-nonsense commander, is Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). He tells Stone she’s the real deal on the mission; he just “drives the bus.” When the bus breaks down due to hurtling debris, Kowalski alternates his supportive, inspirational slaps on the back with valuable advice for survival. As an excellent Bullock takes over the movie, Stone’s choices resonate a struggle between self-doubt and confidence. No matter how overwhelming the simulated space portrayed, there’s always a human center.

Like space itself, Gravity never clobbers us but goes about its business quietly and eerily. It’s a special achievement that Cuaron (Children of Men, Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban, and the marvelous Y Tu Mama Tambien)
is able to marry comic-strip and arthouse interests. Special effects whiz Tim Webber, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and composer Steven Price, who knows the value of understating, all contribute beautifully.

A title card at Gravity’s beginnjng reads, “There is nothing to carry sound. No air pressure. No oxygen. Life in space is impossible.” With Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron, like in all pure cinematic art, makes the impossible possible.

A 4.5 Star Unparalleled 3-D Masterpiece (out of 5 stars)

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2 Responses to “Review: Gravity”
  1. Todd Ruby says:

    Don, Maybe I went with too many expectations. Without a doubt the technical aspects of the film are unbelievably pulled off in a real, tacit and accurate way. The science is spot on. It’s a visual marvel, unquestionably. However after 45 minutes of dazzle I started to almost take the imagery for granted and became used to the 3D Imax experience which just left the story line. All movies and plays have one thing that is paramount to achieve: tell a story. Whether it is Euripedes, Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard or Steven King they as writers are compelled to tell their audience a story. The story in Gravity was fun at best but truthfully got a bit boring. Sandra Bullock is a good actor, no Cate Blanchette etc. and does a yeoman’s job but it was a get in trouble here, get out of it there, rinse and repeat.

    I’m glad I went but in the past 5 years the best movie that has always stayed with me is El Secreto en sus Ojos, “The Secret in Their Eyes”.

  2. Don Malvasi says:

    Todd, I’ve always been a big believer that style, however fabulous, needs the full support of content. and basically agree with you about the necessity of a strong story, and memorable characters. Avatar, one of the very few other films essential-to-view-on-3D, wore down for me after awhile–similar to your experience with Gravity. Inception, same thing… With Gravity, however, there was something more going on for me. Its style, it’s very form, is so breathtaking, I either forgave it for its shortcomings in story, or I was so transfixed I didn’t really notice. Plus the film’s two characters worked for me. and I’ve always thought you can still have a ” good story” from the inside out—character studies, if you will.

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