Saturday, October 12, 2013

Gravity (2013) Review

Directed by
Alfonso Cuaron
I have always had a soft spot in my heart for outer space.  Ever since the first time I saw Apollo 13 (or maybe it was the 30th time I watched, I'm not sure), I have had an obsession with space travel with all the glory and peril it presents.  So when I heard about the release of Gravity this year, one could understand that it quickly became one of the top movies on my must-see list of 2013.  Some would think I was guaranteed to like it, but I also could be more critical of it due to my love of the subject matter and genre.  However, Alfonso Cuaron, who I have never known to disappoint me before, made an absolute masterpiece that leaves you on the edge of your seat from start to finish of this 90 minute nail biter.
The film opens with an American crew on the space shuttle Explorer out on a space walk to install some new technology on the Hubble Space Telescope.  The leader of the expedition, NASA vet Matt Kowalski (played by George Clooney), was wandering around the site in a jet pack supervising while Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) installed her new technology on the telescope.  During the procedure, word came in from mission control (voiced by Ed Harris ... who else) that the Russians had shot down one of their own satellites.  The space debris from that explosion had destroyed several other satellites in the area which caused a storm of debris to head towards the Explorer and its exposed crew.  As the debris storm came and caused chaos, the remaining crew is forced to struggle for survival in the emptiness of space.
As the first screen appears, explaining that there is no air in space, not even to carry sound, you know it is going to have a very eerie feel, which in space is probably quite realistic.  As you see explosions and destruction happening all around, not a sound is made which actually adds to the suspense and tension.  At least on earth, you can hear something bad coming.  In space, it is silent whether all is well or all hell is breaking loose.  The setting of space basically gave Cuaron an extra character to work with that he utilized to its full extent.
The performances in this film are outstanding from the two people you actually see in the film.  I have yet to see a performance from Clooney that doesn't prove he is one of the top actors of his generation.  The surprise was Sandra Bullock who puts in the best work of her career.  She may not have deserved the Oscar for the role she won it for, but the physical and emotional demands that this role put on her, and her ability to shine through all that, prove that she deserves the title of Oscar-winning actress.  Without her performance, the movie falls flat.
I was on the edge of my seat, to say the least, from start to finish.  First off, the setting of space adds an element of suspense to begin with, but add in the circumstances of the characters and it puts you over the edge.  The emotional roller coaster that is Gravity you could actually say had me on the edge of my seat about half the time because the other half the time I was squirming in my seat as I was trying to help the characters make it through from my theatre seat.  I like to think it helps.
Gravity is definitely a movie-going experience that all should go through, especially if you enjoy space, or suspense, or tales of survival, or ... human beings.  The story is so good, but even if you don't like it the visuals are worth seeing it alone.  It is a masterpiece from Cuaron, who has me torn.  I want to see him make more films, but I also see what he produces when he gives himself a few years to develop the film.  So I don't know Alfonso, find a way to make masterpieces faster.

4 stars 

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