“Gravity” isn’t so much a movie as it is an experience. Alfonso Cuaran (Children of Men) returns to feature filmmaking after a seven-year hiatus with an absolutely jaw-dropping cinematic quest best watched on the biggest screen possible. It represents everything that defines film as being the most captivating form of entertainment —raw emotion, creative imagination, and wondrous visuals — all while taking the science fiction genre to another level.
The picture opens with the story of three NASA Astronauts: pilot Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), and assistant engineer Shariff (Paul Sharma) fixing a routine ship malfunction. After a freak shrapnel shower rips through their spaceship, Ryan is left to fend for herself in order to find a way back to Earth. It becomes her objective to get from her ship to the Russian Probe where there is a small pod that can send the first-time astronaut back to her home planet. She can see her salvation in the distance. The only problem is actually getting there.
Clooney is great as the storytelling space veteran Kowalksi, but this is definitely Sandra Bullock’s movie. She is brilliant in the lead role, especially because it is such a departure from the character she played in this summer’s crude comedy “The Heat.” The vast array of emotions Bullock is able to conjure is reminiscent of those that won her an Oscar for “The Blind Side.” Even though Alfonso and his son Jonas’ script is very linear, Bullock is able to overshadow the lackluster plot.
Yes, Bullock’s performance will most likely win her Academy praise, but “Gravity” is much more about special effects than human emotion. Space — for a lack of a better word — is awesome, and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree Of Life) captures it skillfully. Filmed with a 3D camera, Lubezki’s wide-angle shots of mother Earth’s blue/green beauty and dizzying point of view seen through Bullock’s perspective, is worth the price of admission itself. In the same vain as past 3D releases like “Avatar” and “Life Of Pi,”“Gravity” is definitely one of those pictures that is meant to be watched in a theater. Senior Effects Technician Vince Abbot creates such an accurate image of zero gravity space makes it absolutely worth paying extra for an IMAX seat.
There is no denying that Alfonso Cuaran will also be a favorite come awards season. With two major movie stars at his disposal (Bullock and Clooney), the director brings plenty of science fiction action that will more than satisfy adventure junkies expecting Blockbuster thrills. Underlying all of these space explosions, however, Cuaran paints a poignant message about life itself. There is a scene about halfway through the film when Bullock shimmies out of her space suit and curls into a fetal position. The moment is fleeting, but nonetheless delicate and potent with symbolism. High concept action movies hardly ever take their foot off the gas pedal. Cuaran defies this common trope, and offers plenty of quiet time to reflect. During these instances, I couldn’t help but start to see an Oscar win in the director’s near future.
Cuaran’s “Gravity” revitalizes the 3D movie format and in the process, will keep us dreaming of outer space for many years to come. This message, sadly, comes as a bit of an ironic shock because the film premieres during a time when the NASA Website doesn’t even have enough government funding to run.
By David Morris