TELLURIDE FILM FEST
Telluride 2013: Cuarón's 'Gravity' is an Experience Unlike Any Other
by Alex Billington
September 1, 2013
Cinema is a very personal experience. Every movie connects with every person individually, and there are the exceptional films that seem to connect to our own lives in the way they somehow reach deep into our persona. Every once in a long while I'll come across a film that seems to be the culmination of everything in my life that I've been waiting and wanting to see. Usually these films become my all-time favorites. Tonight, I had another one of those experiences - seeing Alfonso Cuarón's space survival movie Gravity in 3D at the Telluride Film Festival. It is a visually groundbreaking, epic cinematic experience unlike any in film history.
As easy as it would be for me to sit here and throw out hyperbole after hyperbole (I'll try my best to hold back), there is just so much more to this movie than words can capture, so much to it that goes beyond the groundbreaking visuals, flawless animation and meticulous scientific accuracy. To me, this film is a shining example of the greatest emotional and visual experience sci-fi can provide, the kind of experience found in seminal movies of past like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Matrix. The experience I had watching Gravity recalled the times I was completely blown away by exemplary original work—like The Matrix—that instantly reminds me why love movies, and love sci-fi, so damn much. I couldn't be happier that this film exists. And I still can't believe it does - that someone has made an original movie this bold and brilliant and beautiful.
Gravity is, at its core, a twist on the classic survival story. This time we follow woman vs. nature: Astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone, played by Sandra Bullock, is left drifting in space after a catastrophe destroys the Space Shuttle and satellite the crew is working on. Another astronaut, Matt Kowalsky played by George Clooney, makes it out alive and carefully meets up with her to figure out a plan to reach a nearby space station and return safely to Earth. The attention to detail is extraordinary. This is truly space as it exists: zero gravity, zero oxygen, no air pressure, no sounds. They never break these rules, and it's that concern for accuracy that makes this movie so revolutionary in its approach. Every last visual effects shot is jaw-dropping gorgeous.
When I was young kid growing up I fell in love with all things space (and science fiction), probably thanks to early repeat viewings of Star Wars. At one point in my adolescence I made it to Space Camp, temporarily fulfilling my dreams and desires to become an astronaut and explore space. I've always wanted to visit outer space, and travel to another planet or the moon. Gravity is one of the first cinematic experiences in my life that reached deep down and connected with me and all of those moments of fascination with space and the cosmos throughout my life. I don't want to say it was the closest I'll ever get to visiting space, because it is a thrill-ride survival story, but it rekindled the raw passion I have for space. That's an achievement of its own.
I really want to watch Gravity over and over and over again. It's like riding your favorite roller coaster at a theme park. The moment you get off, all you want to do is hop on and ride it again. Now that I've seen it I really want to talk about it, talk about how amazing and spectacular it is, talk about how it's such a brilliant cinematic experience, talk about how much it may inspire so many people for so many reasons. I want to talk about how much it connected with me personally. There are shots, little moments in it, that took me from thinking "I love this" to "this is one of my all-time favorite" movies. That may sound like hyperbole, but when the experience is so emotional and so deep, I can't help but feel that way without any conviction.
What I hope for everyone else is that Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity provides the same kind of exhilarating, potentially life-affirming experience that I had. Don't read about spoilers or details beforehand and stop watching any footage. It may not connect as deeply as it did with me, but at the least the filmmaking and the visuals and the performances and the score (holy crap!) and everything in it make up what I can easily call a masterpiece. The way it ends, without spoiling anything, gives a nod to 2001 in a way that hints this may be the kind of film that we look back at many years from now as achieving similar groundbreaking success. Believe me when I say that it's not over-hyping it to make that kind of claim - this movie is that incredible.
My final word: Gravity is a remarkable, extraordinary, spectacular, breathtaking, emotional, mesmerizing experience. It is a revelation for the science fiction genre (or perhaps the finest example of science reality) and an achievement unlike any other. I'm happy to instantly call Gravity one of my all-time favorite movies and I look forward to experiencing it again many, many times over. Alfonso & Jonás Cuarón's masterpiece.
Alex's Telluride Rating: 10 out of 10
Follow Alex on Twitter - @firstshowing