Now See This – Gravity

Posted: October 9, 2013 in Movies, Now See This, Reviews
Tags: , , ,

File:Gravity Poster.jpg

Gravity (d. Alfonso Cuaron, w. Alfonso & Jonas Cuaron)

Grade:  A+

You’ve seen the commercials.  You couldn’t avoid them.  They were everywhere leading up to the release of the film.  You know the stars, they’re only two of the biggest names in Hollywood.  Maybe you’re familiar with the director.  Alfonso Cuaron is the man who directed the most enjoyable of the Harry Potter films, The Prisoner of Azkaban.  He also directed one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years, Children of Men.

But with his latest, and almost certainly his greatest, Cuaron has cemented his reputation as one of the best filmmakers of his era.

Two astronauts, veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and medical engineer, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), are on a routine spacewalk to install new hardware on the Hubble telescope.  A missile strike by the Russians on one of their own satellites starts a chain reaction with devastating effect.  They soon find themselves in an impossible situation with no clear course for escape.  Their only certainty is that another wave of destruction will be speeding its way through orbit at catastrophic speed.

In a brief 90 minutes (a refreshing change from the overwrought, overdone blockbusters of the summer,) Cuaron delivers what is basically a two person stage production set in space.  It features some of, if not THE, most impressive visual effects I’ve ever seen.  The films opens with what appears to be a seamless 15-20 minute shot of the shuttle crew as they complete their mission, blissfully unaware of what is to come.  They exchange in small talk and banter with mission control (voiced by Ed Harris in what is perhaps a nod to the similar role he played in Apollo 13.)  It is here where we first see the steely, professional swagger of Clooney’s Kowalski on his last mission before retirement.  Bullock’s Stone is nervous and overwhelmed when faced with the infinite void of all of creation.  The two really carry the film and provide the emotional depth beyond the visual splendor.  Beyond the visuals and the acting, the subject matter  resonates with the viewer because we know something like this could happen.  I’m old to remember the Challenger disaster.  And I certainly remember the Colombia disaster of 2003.  I recall seeing the footage of the shuttle breaking up as it entered our atmosphere.  That imagery is reflected in shots in this film and it is sobering.

This is a movie worth seeing as big and loud as you possibly can.  Of course there is no sound in space (a fact the film reasserts in a brief written intro) but here there is a propulsive score by Steven Price that heightens the ever-increasing jeopardy of the astronauts.  Hell, I’ve already bought the soundtrack.  It’s wonderful.  On the presentation side of things, It’s rare for me to recommend 3D or Imax but this is a film one should see in its intended format.  The larger screen conveys the vastness of space and shows just how small we are in the grand scope of things.

Big, bold and beautiful, Cuaron reaffirms the power of cinema.  He reminds us that movies can still be magical.  The least anyone can do is take an hour and a half to appreciate what he’s done.  I highly recommend you do.


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