Movies: Gravity

Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Directed By: Alfonso Curaón
Written By: Alfonso Curaón & Jonás Curaón
Warner Bros., 2013
PG-13; 91 min
5 stars (out of 5)


I was not one of those kids who ever wanted to be an astronaut, and Gravity pretty much epitomizes the reasons why. While a catastrophe the size of the one depicted in the film seems highly unlikely, the scenario is realistic enough to be as harrowing for viewers as it is for the characters. Or maybe that's just a sign of filmmaking at its damn finest.

To encapsulate the story for anyone who hasn't seen or heard (though based on box office, it seems like a lot of people have seen it): Gravity is the story of Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and, to a lesser extent, Matt Kowalski (Clooney), doing work on the HST when the Russians strike a defunct satellite and set off a chain reaction of space debris creating a path of destruction. The shuttle is destroyed and Stone and Kowalski are the only survivors. They must get to the nearby ISS in hopes of finding rescue and a ride home to Earth. I won't say more than that; I don't want to give anything away, and I felt going to see it without knowing anything more than that it happened in space was the perfect way to experience the film.

Stone is, of course, a newbie on her first mission, a medical doctor with only six months astronaut training. Kowalski, on the other hand, is on his last mission prior to retirement. It sounds cliché, almost like a bad buddy movie, but here it worked. Bullock and Clooney have good chemistry (though Clooney really is just playing his usual self). But the brunt of the work is on Bullock's shoulders, and she carries it off beautifully.

Still, it's not a film that hinges on acting. That's part of it, but the situations, the camera work . . . Gravity isn't just a movie, it's a kind of immersive experience that requires the big screen to fully appreciate. Indeed, there were moments when I wondered whether WB was already working on a theme park version.

And even still, beyond the ride-like quality of the film, it is still artful. It is truly a unique blend of elements, the things that make film—when done well—great. It's easy to see, though I was going in the third week since it opened, why the cinema was sold out. By the end of it, I was gasping for breath as much as the main character, my muscles shaking as they released the tension that had built in them, in me. That, friends, is the sign of a movie that hits home. They don't make 'em like this any more (did they ever?) but they should. And yet . . . Should we be overrun with copycats in the next few years, I'm not convinced any could have as much impact.  Gravity has gravity—it pulls the viewers in. For good reason.

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