Shelling out the extra money for a 3D screening of a movie is hardly ever worth it; an extra several dollars on top of already-too-pricey ticket, just to “enjoy” muddy and extraneous effects added on after the fact? No thanks.
Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity,” though, is a rare exception to that rule. The strength of the film is the immersive experience it creates, with both its sound and visuals, and the 3D elements feel woven into its fabric. It’s a stunning movie visually, evoking both the infinite vastness of outer space while still somehow claustrophobic, capturing the feeling of the astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) whose lives depend on the confinement of a spacesuit.
“Gravity” is a simple, classic story, the archetypal odyssey of a character trying to return home, not to mention one that clocks in at a refreshing 85 minutes. Perhaps it’s not always strictly plausible—Neil deGrasse Tyson offered up a barrage of Tweets pointing out factual gaffes by the filmmakers, and even for those uninitiated in the particulars of space travel, the proximity of various satellites does seem like an awfully convenient deus ex machina. But it’s easy to get swept up in the suspense of film and forget those nitpicky inaccuracies, to feel immense empathy with Bullock’s character and her primal quest, dressed up with the most sophisticated aspects of human technology.
The empathy the viewer feels with Bullock is not only a testament to Cuarón’s immersive film, but to her performance as well. We spend just about the entirety of the 85 minutes with Bullock’s character Ryan Stone, so it’s essential that we identify with her and not grow weary of her; “I didn’t start to loathe the main character” might sound like damning with faint praise, but it’s by no means a given. If Blake Lively had landed the role? No way. All the emotion would have been conveyed through hair-tossing and flirty pouting. It would have been maddening. Bullock is completely believable and grounded (no pun intended) throughout, despite being saddled with the occasionally clunky dialogue and an unnecessary backstory about her daughter.
“Gravity” has its flaws, but they don’t take the viewer out of the fantastic viewing experience. It’s a film well worth seeing in a theater for the full effect, so don’t wait to catch it on DVD. It’s playing at BAM, Williamsburg Cinemas, Cobble Hill Cinema, and the Park Slope Pavilion, among others.