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Review: Gravity

Oct. 3, 2013by: Eric Walkuski

< (To read Chris Bumbray’s review from TIFF 2013, click here!)

PLOT: Astronauts on a routine space mission find their lives imperiled when the debris of a destroyed satellite obliterates their shuttle - and almost any chance of survival.

REVIEW: It's beautiful, it's fun, it's breath-taking, but what GRAVITY really is more than anything else is a pure adrenaline rush. It's a total cliche to call a movie a "roller coaster ride" because no movie ever actually packs in the three-minutes-and-out surge of adrenaline that a roller coaster ride does, and so it might be inaccurate to give GRAVITY that label too. But, if ever there were a movie that delivered that alternating thrill of fear and grab-on-to-anything exhilaration that comes with dipping and flying wildly on a seemingly unstable track, than GRAVITY is certainly it. It's like the longest, most satisfying Disney theme park ride you've ever experienced.

And this is not a bad thing, nor is it meant to suggest that GRAVITY is intended only as a pulse-pounding hair-raiser. Director Alfonso Cuaron often immerses us in the serene beauty of space, allowing us plenty of time to appreciate this colorful globe we reside on and the strange, silent universe beyond. Most science-fiction films never really contemplate our planet from afar, nor do they stop to ruminate on the utterly fascinating complexities of outer space; Cuaron uses his film as an opportunity to allow us to reflect on just how amazing this all is, the way we might have when we were kids. Call it a love letter to the great void above.

But it's clearly Cuaron's goal to freak us right the hell out and GRAVITY, for all its poignancy, works best when it's beating your nerve-endings to a pulp. You want to literally gasp and wince and allow a movie to repeatedly work on your most primitive impulses? Then GRAVITY does it in spades. Cuaron orchestrates action better than, well, just about anyone that I can think of right now. Interestingly, the one movie I kept thinking of while sitting pinned back to my seat was THE FRENCH CONNECTION. You know the legendary sequence where Popeye Doyle careens heedlessly through Brooklyn to catch an elevated train? The way William Friedkin makes you feel as if your in that car, and every sharp turn and close call is like a shock of electricity to your body - that's how Cuaron's best sequences of space chaos play in GRAVITY, only magnified tenfold.

The story is pure narrative thrust, a real-time nightmare of Murphy's Law among the stars. (Cuaron and his screenwriter and son Jonas have blessedly made the script a very simple exercise.) What I can tell you is that we only have two main characters: Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), an introverted medical engineer from the midwest still recovering from a tragedy back on Earth, and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), a retiring astronaut making his "one last trip" into space. For her part, this is Stone's first foray into the great beyond, tasked with installing a revolutionary tracking system aboard a floating space station. (The movie never even really bothers to get into the particulars of this invention, and that's okay.) There are other astronauts at work, but GRAVITY is solely interested in these two, painting a modest picture of a meek, emotionally unprepared woman and her cocky, long-winded male colleague. Cuaron lets us breath in the moment of watching these people work, glide and dance around weightlessly, a very peaceful and relaxing scene that could last the entire movie; we'd leave feeling rather enriched.

But then he quite literally takes your breath away. About ten minutes in (maybe, I wasn't looking at my watch - ever), our astronauts get news of a destroyed Russian satellite headed their way. The debris is massive, and actually kicking around other satellites, meaning not just one wave of fiery metal is closing in on them, but many. The crew is meant to abort their mission immediately and head back to their ship, but before they can even do that they and everything around them is pelted with piece after piece of deadly rubble, their station quickly cut to pieces and their hopes of survival almost thoroughly vanished.

But survive they do, and here's where I stop even bothering to describe the film, because what happens next has to be seen to be believed. Let's just say our protagonists jump from one cataclysm to another; putting out one fire - so to speak - just to watch two more pop up. Every passing minute seems to include a near-death experience. Cuaron thrusts us so completely into this on-going crisis that it sometimes seems unfair; at the risk of sounding pretentious, the real gravity here is the way the director pulls us toward the screen, like an expert puppet master not only toying with his characters, but us as well.

 

It may be obvious to those who have paid attention to the marketing campaign thus far, but Bullock is the true lead of the film, and it's a vivid, emotionally stripped down performance without a hint of vanity or affectation. Bullock is put through the ringer here, and even though she's often surrounded by astounding visual effects (no joke: astounding), her graduation from terrified space-rookie to sturdy survivor is what engages us completely because we're living this catastrophe through her eyes - sometimes literally. And while the actress is best known for her effortless charm and comedic timing, she's best here during moments of repose, thinking back on a sad life and looking forward at a potentially short future.

But the real stars here are Cuaron, his visual effects team and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who beautifully constructs a series of long, ever-moving takes that last minutes on end. The collaboration between these entities is tangible, and the result is a technical and visionary marvel. Let me take a brief moment to state the obvious: GRAVITY is meant to be seen on a big screen - preferably an IMAX screen - and in 3D. Yes, this is 3D done the right way; more so than even AVATAR it's probably the best ever usage of the format.

Is it perfect? Not quite, although it seems silly to nitpick at a movie this good. Cuaron and son's dialogue is a little stale, intended only to pass the time and state the obvious. And while filled with emotion, the film's final moments are a bit too bombastic and symbolism-heavy for my liking; Cuaron earns a big finish, but he goes just a tad overboard, the music swelling to a fever pitch and the majesty of what we've just seen is hammered home with a mallet. But hell, no one can ever accuse the director of mastering the art of subtlety; subtlety doesn't give us a splendid adventure such as GRAVITY.

Source: JoBlo.com

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+7
2:22PM on 10/03/2013
I can't rave enough about this movie. It is one of the most unique and exciting experiences I have ever had in a theater. It takes a great director to truly make you feel what you're watching, and Cuaron does that. His photography in this alone is worth the price of admission. But, it's as the review says, this is a pure adrenaline rush with moments of such exhilaration, you'll wonder how this hasn't been achieved before. A real achievement for cinema and one of the years best films.
I can't rave enough about this movie. It is one of the most unique and exciting experiences I have ever had in a theater. It takes a great director to truly make you feel what you're watching, and Cuaron does that. His photography in this alone is worth the price of admission. But, it's as the review says, this is a pure adrenaline rush with moments of such exhilaration, you'll wonder how this hasn't been achieved before. A real achievement for cinema and one of the years best films.
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12:19PM on 10/03/2013
I can't wait to see this tonight. It looks amazing. Good review. Thanks
I can't wait to see this tonight. It looks amazing. Good review. Thanks
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1:19PM on 10/03/2013
I'm betting the Academy is regretting giving Bullock the Oscar for The Blind Side. By the looks of things, this might actually be her best performance yet.
I'm betting the Academy is regretting giving Bullock the Oscar for The Blind Side. By the looks of things, this might actually be her best performance yet.
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7:47PM on 10/03/2013
Maybe they will just have to give it to her again!
Maybe they will just have to give it to her again!
10:22PM on 10/05/2013
First off lets see what the other Oscar movies and their performances do. But yes, right now Bullock is the front runner to win best actress. Second, of course they would give it to her again if she's the best. Look at Daniel Day Lewis and Christopher Waltz. They received 2 oscars within a short span of their films.
First off lets see what the other Oscar movies and their performances do. But yes, right now Bullock is the front runner to win best actress. Second, of course they would give it to her again if she's the best. Look at Daniel Day Lewis and Christopher Waltz. They received 2 oscars within a short span of their films.
10:52AM on 10/03/2013
Like post below, haven't seen anything in theater for awhile. Could be the fact that paying babysitter to watch three kids + popcorn/soda/Goobers at theater = a car payment. But this is one I will be seeing. Looks great.
Like post below, haven't seen anything in theater for awhile. Could be the fact that paying babysitter to watch three kids + popcorn/soda/Goobers at theater = a car payment. But this is one I will be seeing. Looks great.
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10:25AM on 10/03/2013
Can't wait to go see this. Found there wasn't much in the last couple months to get me excited to go to the movies. Glad I have an IMAX theatre 5 minutes away from me.
Can't wait to go see this. Found there wasn't much in the last couple months to get me excited to go to the movies. Glad I have an IMAX theatre 5 minutes away from me.
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11:03AM on 10/03/2013
Definitely one of the best films of the year. A grandiloquent display of technical aptitude; man does Alfonso Cuaron know how to put on a show. It's a small, straightforward and very human story unfolding against this massive, lavish backdrop. Breathtaking and suspenseful every step of the way. It's very well-researched and wholly believable, perhaps apart from the helmets being transparent (then again, we wouldn't want to cover up Sandy and George's faces and "in space, everyone can see your
Definitely one of the best films of the year. A grandiloquent display of technical aptitude; man does Alfonso Cuaron know how to put on a show. It's a small, straightforward and very human story unfolding against this massive, lavish backdrop. Breathtaking and suspenseful every step of the way. It's very well-researched and wholly believable, perhaps apart from the helmets being transparent (then again, we wouldn't want to cover up Sandy and George's faces and "in space, everyone can see your face" is an established sci-fi trope). Maybe Sandra Bullock wasn't the best choice for the part, but she acted her heart out here.
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2:12PM on 10/03/2013
So I take it you've already seen it?
So I take it you've already seen it?
8:24PM on 10/03/2013
Yes, I saw it to review it. I'm hoping to watch it again.
Yes, I saw it to review it. I'm hoping to watch it again.
7:45PM on 10/03/2013
cool to know it's so good. Me and my wife really want to go see it. I do have a question for those that have seen it though. My wife is pregnant, and can be prone to feeling sick to her stomach. Would that be a problem for this movie?
cool to know it's so good. Me and my wife really want to go see it. I do have a question for those that have seen it though. My wife is pregnant, and can be prone to feeling sick to her stomach. Would that be a problem for this movie?
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8:30PM on 10/03/2013
The film does get pretty intense in parts; I wouldn't recommend it highly if your wife is prone to feeling sick. What's interesting is Cuaron doesn't use hyper-editing or shaky cam at all, so it isn't the "Cloverfield" kind of motion sickness. It's more like vertigo, if that makes any sense.
The film does get pretty intense in parts; I wouldn't recommend it highly if your wife is prone to feeling sick. What's interesting is Cuaron doesn't use hyper-editing or shaky cam at all, so it isn't the "Cloverfield" kind of motion sickness. It's more like vertigo, if that makes any sense.
12:34PM on 10/03/2013

Never been a Sandra Bullock fan

but this might be the movie that changes my mind. I was already on board with Cuaron and Clooney - they always do interesting stuff - but it's always great to see an actor I'd previously dismissed show a new side. The wife's also excited about this one.
but this might be the movie that changes my mind. I was already on board with Cuaron and Clooney - they always do interesting stuff - but it's always great to see an actor I'd previously dismissed show a new side. The wife's also excited about this one.
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2:49AM on 10/09/2013

Truly literary and artistic

What gets lost in all the amazing visuals, and why I describe it as literary, is its dual purpose story. The main plot is the survival piece, but its second layer, and really its heart and soul, is that this is a film about a grieving mother. Cuaron uses shots and images to make the whole story a metaphor for a woman's rebirth after the death of a child, someone who experiences the ultimate solitude, but finds her voice again. She struggles against the aggressive weight of herself and rises up
What gets lost in all the amazing visuals, and why I describe it as literary, is its dual purpose story. The main plot is the survival piece, but its second layer, and really its heart and soul, is that this is a film about a grieving mother. Cuaron uses shots and images to make the whole story a metaphor for a woman's rebirth after the death of a child, someone who experiences the ultimate solitude, but finds her voice again. She struggles against the aggressive weight of herself and rises up again. It is not often enough that we get a SciFi film that features a truly personal, human experience, since so often the genre is used as allegory for political and religious philosophies and beliefs, rather than metaphor for human experience. Congrats cuaron for blowing me away and making me FEEL something in a SciFi movie beyond the simple pleasure of entertainment.
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+0
10:31PM on 10/05/2013

GREAT MOVIE

I saw this film in 3D last night and loved it. No it's not perfect but I would give it an 8 or 9/10. I actually loved the ending. It's a couple little parts in the middle that is the weakest for me. But right now I'm gonna say Alfonso Cuaron gets the 'best director' Oscar for this one. It reminds me of how Ang Lee won for Life of Pi for the all the technical work that was so good in it. It'll also get best visual effects, editing, and hopefully music (unless Hans Zimmer's 12 Years a Slave
I saw this film in 3D last night and loved it. No it's not perfect but I would give it an 8 or 9/10. I actually loved the ending. It's a couple little parts in the middle that is the weakest for me. But right now I'm gonna say Alfonso Cuaron gets the 'best director' Oscar for this one. It reminds me of how Ang Lee won for Life of Pi for the all the technical work that was so good in it. It'll also get best visual effects, editing, and hopefully music (unless Hans Zimmer's 12 Years a Slave is great too). Bullock is definitely the front runner to win best actress. I even think George Clooney's performance is a little underrated.
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10:56AM on 10/03/2013
I knew it would get 9 or 10/10.
I knew it would get 9 or 10/10.
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5:22PM on 10/03/2013
I like this super silly Gravity trailer parody.
[link]
I like this super silly Gravity trailer parody.
[link]
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4:32PM on 10/04/2013
Gravity was a good movie, but it's hardly '9 out of 10' good. The film had some problems and is a little over hyped. Also, I find that Cuaron is a little overrated. Don't get me wrong, I like Cuaron, but he's not the perfect genius that joblo always gives him credit for.
Gravity was a good movie, but it's hardly '9 out of 10' good. The film had some problems and is a little over hyped. Also, I find that Cuaron is a little overrated. Don't get me wrong, I like Cuaron, but he's not the perfect genius that joblo always gives him credit for.
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