'Gravity' won a few Academy Awards for its technical achievements. It is the kind of movie that was made for the 3-D theatrical experience, a rare bird indeed, in this examiner’s opinion.
Anyway, we are talking about the home edition of the film, so that’s off the table. Let’s see how it stacked up on my middling TV.
Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first shuttle mission. Luckily, she is joined by Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who has seen it all. During a repair job on the Hubble Space Telescope, debris hurtles past them, causing major damage to their ship and scattering the astronauts. Stone has a limited amount of oxygen and must make it back to the shuttle, but it’s not that simple...
Much of the technical splendor of the theatrical experience is lost in the home theater version of this. That is true for many, if not most, movies, but this especially. One can still image how the film was truly intended to be seen, but this huge plus is slightly neutralized in this form.
Even though this is a short movie, there are some brief stretches where things are quite stagnant. It takes a little while for the action to start and once it does, things veer dangerously close to 'Open Water' territory. This quickly becomes more dynamic, has a higher budget and doesn't wallow in a couple arguing for an hour and a half. That was such a terrible movie.
Anyway, a lot of this plot is propelled by Stone having the absolute worst luck in any given situation. The initial debris show kicks things off, but it is perpetuated by things like a lack of oxygen, an improbable fire, equipment malfunctions, etc. For once, something should actually work in space, right?
Think of the most watchable portion of ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, the segment where the astronauts have to overcome HAL is the best part, right? It’s easy to think that cutting out the primitive beginning and the psychedelic ending would have left us with a perfect movie on its own, right? This proves that one needs a little more than zero gravity thrills to hold one’s interest. The silence and solitary nature of space can only sustain an audience’s attention for so long. That is why many of the most-beloved space-set movies either have a clear, linear plot with an arc or a crew of characters that can provide a bodycount.
Director Alfonso Cuaron always does a good job. This isn’t his best movie (hello, ‘Children of Men’) but it may become what he is best known for. On a certain level, that makes sense because this has a wider appeal than most of his other work (except for ‘Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban’) and has earned him this most acclaim.
For all of the criticism that has been leveled at the film thus far in the review, it’s important to note that it is a result of inflated expectations. Taken objectively, this has a lot of entertaining elements and a great performance from Bullock. This was her serious turn in 2013, while ‘The Heat' was her cutting loose. Clooney always adds a touch of class to a film and this is certainly no exception.
Special features include: nothing on the rental edition.
'Gravity' deserves a lot of credit from a technical perspective. In terms of overall entertainment value, it's a little overrated, but still well worth a rental.
This is one of the increasingly rare instances that this examiner regrets not seeing a movie in theaters.
Rated R 91 minutes 2014