Review: Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity' is Everything You've Heard & More
by Jeremy Kirk
October 4, 2013
At this point you don't need me explaining the awesomeness, beauty, and heart-pounding intensity at work in Gravity. The latest film from masterful director Alfonso Cuarón has been generating tons of buzz, most of it falling into the consensus that Gravity is all of the above, and it's easy to fall into hyperbole with an event picture like this. That isn't keeping the hype from being 100% accurate, as Gravity mesmerizes at every turn in story, development of character, and the impeccably executed shot that makes it not only a most suspenseful and moving experience, but also a visual achievement unlike anything we've seen before.
At the center of that pulse-pounding story are Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, playing astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski respectively. Stone and Kowalski are two members of a five-man shuttle crew, going about their NASA business just outside of the Earth's atmosphere when something tragic occurs. A cluster of asteroids has been tearing through Earth-orbiting satellites, causing a barrage of satellite and asteroid shrapnel to begin circling the planet. As luck would have it, that five-man crew it directly in the path of the shrapnel, and it isn't long before Stone and Kowalski find themselves adrift in space, having to use every ounce of their survival skills to get back home safe.
As the opening title cards explain, life in space is impossible. Without the equipment and ability to transport, there is absolutely no way anyone can survive for long in the vast emptiness surrounding our planet. As Cuarón's screenplay, which he co-wrote with his son, Jonás, shows us, there are a multitude of intricate skills and techniques one must have in order to even work in space, and the film itself puts you, the audience, directly in those suits.
It's difficult to separate the screenplay from the execution in Gravity, the two going hand-in-hand so flawlessly. Don't think that's a bad aspect to the film, though. Quite the contrary. Gravity has no lulls, hardly any downtime. It isn't a matter of having pretty things to look at while the suspense of Stone and Kowalski trying to maneuver themselves back to safety subsides. Whether the engaging story of survival and human nature holds you or whether Cuarón's visuals captivate you, Gravity WILL have you. And you let it.
The dynamic director who transcended the Harry Potter series with Prisoner of Azkaban and absolutely floored us with Children of Men is still at the top of his game. You may not notice it if you aren't looking for it, but the first shot in Gravity is essentially the first act of the film. Upping his game from Children of Men, Cuarón pulls off a 17-minute spacewalk, putting us right along Clooney and Bullock working outside their shuttle. It's breathtaking. And it only gets going from there. The real beauty of the entire film is how the incredible visuals - My God, the scope of it all - neither detract nor distract from the story he's telling. Additional credit must be given to Cuarón's long-time collaborating cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, who drives those visuals with a solid eye.
Cuarón's commanding film deserves a commanding lead, and Sandra Bullock gives the real performance of her life - Sorry, The Blind Side - in a role that demands so much from her. The fear of dying and the will to live come through from Bullock, in a way that ends up ratcheting up the intensity to a film that already had so much of it. You're in there with her, and even though the character has come to somewhat adjust to the sheer awesome of space, you're both freaking out. Bullock is as awesome as the film itself here.
And Clooney, that funny guy, brings a surprising amount of levity to the intensity. He’s the voice of reason throughout Ryan’s entire ordeal. As he’s calming her, he’s calming us. Genius. It's the kind of performance that makes you want a Kowalski stand-alone film, one where he isn't spending the bulk of his time flipping around space trying to beat some Russian's spacewalk record. Although, that would be great, too.
In the end credits, there were large amounts of digital artists listed, too many to name here, but each of them deserves a handshake for the damn fine display in Gravity. It absolutely is something too big to describe, something you have to see for yourself, and on the biggest, brightest screen possible. Hell, it's one of the few cases where the 3D is a must-have as well as it enhances everything.
Cuarón wraps everything together perfectly in a film that could very easily go down as his masterpiece. Not exactly science fiction, Gravity is a case of science potential, something that could happen, but, to our knowledge, hasn't. That creates an even deeper connection to the characters and events the filmmaker depicts going on above us. Gravity is excellence in filmmaking, a work of art that will be long-studied in film schools and narrative courses. It epitomizes the reason motion pictures were invented in the first place, and so many words shouldn't even be used to attempt to do it justice. So I'll shut up.
Jeremy's Rating: 10 out of 10
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