Movie Review: Gravity
Every so often a movie will hit you in a specific way, maybe in a way that you never expected. For me, Gravity is one of those films. I’ve not been to the movies since The World’s End back in August, and while I was aware of Gravity (it did appear on GFBR’s most anticipated list for 2013), I wasn’t prepared for just how finely crafted a film it would be. Not to put too fine a point on it, but Gravity is one of the most finely crafted films I’ve ever seen, and it undoubtably has some of the best, if not the absolute best, outer space special effects that I’ve ever seen.
Gravity, directed by Children of Men and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban helmer Alfonso Cuaron, is set entirely in orbit around the Earth. Astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) from the space shuttle Explorer are attempting repairs of the Hubble space telescope when debris damages the shuttle, forcing the two astronauts to seek alternative rescue options.
It’s a lean premise for a film, and admittedly the screenplay (dialogue in particular) is the weakest aspect of the movie. But the visual palette of the film is the narrative, as we follow our leads and watch them struggle against the odds that are stacked sternly beyond their favor. Clocking in at 91-minutes, Gravity is a film that knows what it wants to do and does it with little fat left to trim. It’s refreshing, as I’ve often lamented the ever increasing length of movies recently that could use another pass in the editing suite. Gravity knows what story it wants to tell, and does so with a breakneck speed that seems rare these days.
And with only 91 minutes to fill, Gravity is one of the most intense films I’ve seen. It’s brisk running time leaves little room for the characters, and indeed the viewer themselves, to take a breath. It’s just non-stop thrills for the majority of its time. And when I say “thrills” what I really mean is horrible situations; I swear the movie could have been called Shitty Luck In Space, it’s not quite as elegant as Gravity, but it’s more descriptive.
My motto these days is usually “special effects aren’t,” as in, they are rarely special or effective. With blockbuster action films coming to theaters packed with CG effects every weekend, it’s not hard to point out terrible effects work. It’s refreshing that Gravity’s effects are damned near perfect. It’s the 2001: a Space Odyssey of our generation–a beautiful rendition of space that looks incredibly realistic while showing viewers something they’ve never seen before. It’s so good that you might experience vertigo when presented with views of the leads above the Earth. I know I did.
Gravity might just be the first film where I felt the 3D not only enhanced the experience but is also a necessity. Longtime GFBR readers might recall that I roundly loathe 3D. I wear glasses and hate wearing 3D lenses over my prescription ones. But in Gravity, with space debris whipping around the frame, and destruction of space equipment the norm, the 3D supplements the story and enhances the sense of vertigo. God help me, I never thought I’d say this, but you simply must see Gravity in 3D.
Bullock and Clooney are just as good as you’d imagine them to be, but they are hamstrung by the somewhat shallow dialog that peppers the film. And speaking of the script (written by Cuaron and his son Jonas), there were a few moments that…uh…bent the laws of physics as I understand them (I am by no means an astrophysicist, so I could be completely wrong, but famed astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson took to Twitter to completely decimate the scientific accuracy of the film). It’s probably nothing that’s going to hurt your enjoyment of the film, but it’s worth mentioning.
Gravity is an astounding achievement in film. It’s a new benchmark for outer space special effects, and it’s a roller coaster ride of terror and thrills. It does for 3D what few other movies can claim: Gravity makes 3D essential and compliments the experience seamlessly. But it’s not all special effects wizardry, Cuaron’s deft eye and skillful direction make this disaster-pic more than just explosions, it has a heart and soul that are missing in other films of its type. It’s a movie that’s going to stick with you for a long while after you see it. It’s important. It’s refreshing. It’s devastating. Gravity is going to be remembered for a long time to come.