Gravity movie review: Houston, we have a problem
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 17:10
Release date:Oct. 4
Studio:Warner Bros., Esperanto Filmoj and Heyday Films
The mesmerizing 13-minute sequence at the beginning of Gravity sets the tone for a cinematic experience unlike any other. The serene beauty of the cosmos serves as a beautiful contrast against the chaos of the story.
As the film opens, the camera holds on a tranquil shot of Earth; sporadic radio chatter can be heard as the space shuttle Explorer and the Hubble Space Telescope drift into view.
Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, The Descendants) comically retells stories from his glory days while commanding what will be his final mission in space.
Meanwhile, first-time astronaut and genius medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock,The Heat) works to repair the Hubble telescope before the crew can return to Earth.
Before long, friendly radio chatter turns into cries of “mission abort” and “Mayday, Mayday” in a last ditch effort for survival when debris from a nearby satellite suddenly smashes into the Explorer.
The debris sends Stone hurtling away from the Explorer as the soundtrack fades before the camera finally stops to watch her as she spins further into the depths of space. Her panicked breathing and cries for help are only interrupted by Kowalski’s attempt to keep her calm and focused. The ensuing chaos strands Kowalski and Stone in space with limited oxygen and no radio contact with mission control.
The film’s magnificent opening sequence is captured in one take, with realism that rivals IMAX documentaries in its technical precision and awe-inspiring visuals.
Written and directed by Alfonso Cuarón and cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki, Gravity teleports the audience into space, keeping them comfortable with their feet set firmly on the ground.
The film’s plot might seem simple at first, but beneath the guise of the film’s uncomplicated plot and superlative technical veneer is a remarkably intense, visceral and suspenseful exploration into the human psyche as it is thrown into a catastrophe with a bleak outcome. All of which is depicted with impeccable cinematography and beautifully enhanced by Steven Price’s soundtrack.
Serene views of space soon become a backdrop for the magnificent visuals, technical precision and special effects behind Gravity. The film’s realism doesn’t just come from its visuals – it comes from the film’s cinematography.
The way in which the camera seamlessly moves through the scene and changes perspectives allows the viewer to feel like a third character – the pristinely realistic view of space becomes their own.
This effect becomes apparent in the opening and longest scene of the film. The majority of the film’s 91-minute runtime feels like one long continuous shot, which allows the viewer to feel increasingly close to the events and characters within the film – especially as the astronauts’ situation becomes more dire.
Each breath that Kowalski and Stone take on their mission to safety is a reminder that they are running out of oxygen and will soon be faced with the return of the debris field as it travels around Earth. Each moment of Gravity serves as a reminder that giving up is just as easy as letting go.
The film quickly focuses all of its attention on Stone, who struggles to stay calm in the face of the disaster. Although she was trained for the intense rigors of walking in space, nothing could prepare her for the terrifying catastrophe during the film’s onset or the nearly impossible task of making it home alive.
It is against these nearly insurmountable odds her character must face that Bullock delivers a memorable performance. Clooney delivers a solid performance with his character infusing some much needed levity and calm into the film. Kowalski’s experience and knowledge as the commander and senior astronaut relaxes both Stone and the audience into believing that survival is a probability, not just a possibility.
The full weight and impact of Gravity isn’t revealed until the film’s final moments, but it will resonate for hours after the final credits roll. The film’s superlative special effects and visuals may bring you into the theater, but the visceral suspense at the film’s core will keep you there. Gravity proves it doesn’t take a large cast or complex plot to make a remarkably unforgettable movie.