Early on in Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity,” veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) looks out from his space station at Earth looming below him and says, “You have to admit one thing: you can’t beat the view.” And the truth is, you really can’t. “Gravity” is a technical marvel, one that is so visually stunning and immersive that it reminds you of that magic ability movies have to transport you anywhere – even 372 miles above the Earth’s surface. Don't miss out on the chance of seeing this one in IMAX 3D; this is likely the closest you'll ever get to going to space.
Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first space mission. She’s the opposite of Clooney’s Kowalski. She’s quiet and despondent – a woman who seems to be a shadow of what she once was.
Kowalski (who is essentially Clooney playing himself) is chatty and charismatic; he likes to entertain mission control (voiced by Ed Harris) with his countless life stories and cracks jokes to ease the tension, saying things like, “Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission.” That bad feeling sure enough comes into effect when an accident leaves their shuttle destroyed -- and the pair left stranded in space.
Cuarón has crafted an intense, thrill-ride of a film, one that very easily works as a popcorn movie about two people’s fight for survival in an impossible situation – but he wanted the story to be about more than just that. In “Gravity,” nearly everything – including space – acts as a metaphor. This is a story of emotional rebirth. This could (and probably would) come off as forced or overly sentimental if it wasn’t for Bullock’s heartfelt performance. There’s a deep inner sadness that she communicates here; this is Bullock like we’ve never seen her before. Any remanent of her signature attitude is gone, and what we’re left with is easily the best performance of her career.
By the second half of the film, “Gravity” is an overwhelmingly emotional experience. But if I had to pick its crowning element, what would it be? Maybe it’s a mix of the masterful sound design and score by Steven Price, in which the music slowly creeps upon the deafening silence of space and builds to its chill-inducing crescendo. Maybe it’s Bullock’s incredible ability to connect with us, despite the lack of story or minimal dialogue. Or maybe it’s cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki’s magnificent, fluid camerawork. (Can we please just give him an Oscar already?).
But really, when it comes down to it, this is a film that excels because of a combined brilliance, all conducted by a tremendous, passionate director. This is some of the most vibrant filmmaking I've seen in a long time. And it’s a combination of all those things that makes “Gravity” the first real must-see movie-going experience of the year.
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