“Gravity” is one of those movies that, if you’re going to commit to seeing it, you just have to see it in theaters. I mean really, every movie should be seen in the theater; that’s what they were made for, not for computer screens and iPhones. But “Gravity” is the rare immersive, beautiful film that you just need to pay the extra bucks for a ticket to see it on the biggest screen you can find and, yes, in 3D.
Written and directed by Alfonso Cuaron, “Gravity” is a thriller set in space. No, not a sci-fi story, but a real, intense drama. It opens on three American astronauts stationed aboard the Explorer: one of them is the confident, devil-may-care veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), and the other is medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). Ryan is basically the exact opposite of Matt: this is her first mission in space, and she’s nervous, refusing to believe in her abilities. They are outside the shuttle working when disaster strikes: debris from a Russian satellite annihilates the Explorer, killing everyone except Matt and Ryan. Now they’re stranded, with only their space suits and a dwindling supply of oxygen keeping them alive, and with only 90 minutes until the flying debris makes its way around to them again.
With “Gravity”, Cuaron has succeeded in crafting a film that is unique on so many levels. Its storyline is simple: it’s about two people struggling to survive in an environment that it is impossible to survive in. But as the film progresses, it becomes apparent that it is about much more than that, and that there is a lot that can be read into it, turning what seemed simple into a complex work of art. It has non-stop thrills, that’s for sure; the tension among moviegoers watching the film was almost tangible, and Cuaron does a good job with interspersing some of the most intense scenes with a breather before picking back up again. But ultimately, it is more a character-driven story, about Ryan’s personal transformation from beginning to end.
The film’s visual effects are also a marvel and contribute greatly to its believability. It’s rare that I would recommend a film solely based on the quality of its special effects, but “Gravity” is worth it. From its breathtaking opening shot looking down at Earth from space to the details of the space station, it is truly awe-inspiring and beautiful. It is even the rare movie that is worth seeing in 3D; the extra dimension actually does greatly enhance the film’s environment. The visuals also aid the film’s intense and unique action scenes, juxtaposing the beauty and danger of space.
But “Gravity” is far from a perfect movie. Clooney is good, but there are times when Bullock’s acting feels phony. There are also aspects of her character that detract from the film’s believability; considering she had six months of training before heading into space, it seems odd that she doesn’t know what to do in so many situations, and often goes straight into panic mode. Sure, those qualities add to the development of the characters, since Matt is the experienced one and Ryan is not, but it’s done just enough to make one scratch one’s head.
“Gravity” is the kind of movie that doesn’t come along often. It’s original, visually beautiful, and thrilling to critics and audiences alike. It isn’t the year’s best film, but it’s one of the better ones, and worth seeking out—now, while it’s still in theaters.
Runtime: 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre
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