Monday, October 7, 2013

Movie Review: "Gravity"

At one point in Gravity, mission specialist Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) says, "I hate space." And given what she has to endure in this movie, you certainly can't blame her for that statement!

When the movie opens, Stone, a medical engineer on a special mission for NASA, and seasoned astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, in full Buzz Lightyear mode), who is on his last trip to space, are doing some routine repairs on their spacecraft. You hear the constant chatter of communication with Houston (the familiar voice of Ed Harris at Mission Control) and those on the spacecraft, and Kowalski shares anecdotes that everyone has heard hundreds of times, yet there is a comforting familiarity to all of it.

And suddenly things change: Mission Control reports that a Russian satellite has exploded, causing of chain of debris to fly through space at high speeds. Kowalski and his crew are warned to abort their mission and return to their spacecraft immediately, but because of some glitches, it's too late—they are hit by the debris and the ship is lost. At first, Stone becomes untethered and finds herself hurtling through space, panicking, because she thinks (rightfully so) she might be lost forever. (This is the scene most people have seen in the movie's trailer.)

But thanks to Kowalski's calm guidance (and some pretty cool space acrobatics), the two are able to reconnect with each other and need to head toward a nearby Russian Soyuz spacecraft to get home. And then pretty much everything else goes wrong.

I wasn't sure what to expect from Gravity. I loved director Alfonso CuarĂ³n's Children of Men, so I know he has an amazing way of transfixing you both with action and emotion, but how could you sustain interest in a movie that's about someone lost in space? But obviously, this movie is about so much more—it's about courage, letting go, not giving up, and the amazing beauty of outer space.

So many movies these days are shown in 3D, and it makes little difference to the movie experience. (Ahem, Great Gatsby, ahem.) But with Gravity, the 3D effects are so brilliant, they truly enhance the movie. You honestly feel as if the space debris is flying at you. (Yeah, I ducked once or twice. Or maybe four times.) And the way things float in zero gravity—from pens and files to human tears—is visually brilliant but relevant to the story as it unfolds as well.

I love Sandra Bullock and while I may have am still grumbled a bit when she won the Oscar for Blind Side a few years ago, she gives what might be her strongest performance to date in this film. It's panic and emotion and bravery and reckless abandon, and it's absolutely mesmerizing. George Clooney is, as always, a presence—I remarked after the movie that it's still hard to reconcile the Clooney of today with the Clooney of Facts of Life or Roseanne—although I always sensed his star quality.

Is this a perfect film? No, not quite. I did roll my eyes a tiny bit at the continued chain of bad luck that Bullock's character was handed, and kept waiting for another shoe to drop every time. But it is a tremendously moving and visually brilliant film, definitely among the best I've seen so far this year. And this would be a much-deserved Oscar nomination for Bullock, that much I can say.

1 comment:

  1. While the writing wasn't as good as the visuals, it was still well-worth the watch nonetheless. Nice review Larry.