It took seven years for Alfonso Cuaron to follow-up his brilliant “Children of Men,” but “Gravity” proves to be worth the wait. A ninety-minute thrill ride that pushes what can be done on film, “Gravity” is masterful filmmaking that will leave you on the edge of your seat.
“Gravity” follows Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), as she must struggle to get back to earth after debris destroys her space ship and kills the rest of her crew. A visual feast, Cuaron’s latest features breathtaking visual effects and properly executed 3D work. While the tech and below the line aspects are front and center, a strong performance from Sandra Bullock and a solid, if a little on-the-nose, story round-out what will definitely be one the of the best films of the year.
Visually, this film is amazing. We can talk about the wonderful CGI that created space and the debris at length, but what shouldn’t go underestimated is the beautiful and essential work from director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki. He helped to create the incredible canvas of the film, giving us picturesque scenes one minute, and then throwing us literally into the shoes of Bullock’s character as she terrifyingly spins deeper into space. The last three of four winners for best cinematography used 3D, so Lubezki likely is an early favorite for the prize this year.
Speaking of 3D, this is the type of film that should be using it. The added depth was never distracting or off-putting, likely due to the fact that the entire world was CGI. However, as cliché as it is for the format, this was an instance were things flying at you added to the experience and never seemed out of place. From very early on it was said this was a film that had to be seen in 3D, and they weren’t wrong.
In regard to that though, I hope Hollywood is taking note. The reason that pre-sales of 3D have been up for “Gravity” is not simply because it is in 3D, it is because of what we’re seeing in 3D. If you throw 3D onto every action film or animated film the format devalues, as proved by the last couple of years. So how do you make the format work? Make 3D movies event ones, make the use of the format special so the audience will buy the ticket because it’s going to be something new. 3D will never become the standard; so only bring it out when it is really necessary. But don’t cry Hollywood; you can just start shooting films in IMAX to keep being able to add those extra surcharges.
Now that that digression is out of the way, lets focus on Ms. Bullock. The Oscar-winner will have a shot at a second with her performance here. Bullock is terrific; her character goes through the ringer, but she is able to keep her performance in check, never feeling over-the-top or forced. Considering she is the only one of screen for close to eighty-percent of the movie, she is fully able to hold our attention.
The only other person we see is George Clooney, who was essentially playing George Clooney as an astronaut, but that didn’t make his antics any less enjoyable, and actually helped us focus more on Bullock’s character and all her nuances. Fun fact, though Bullock and Clooney are the only actors seen in the movie, we get a familiar voice responding as Houston, Ed Harris, and if you remember he also ran Houston in Ron Howard’s “Apollo 13.”
If you go searching for weak spots with “Gravity” they pretty much begin and end with the story. It’s a simple one, which with all that is going on is good, but the emotional depth of the story is practically non-existent. Any dialogue that is not astronaut jargon is all expository. It can be a bit of a bother, but considering things never linger peacefully for too long you’re quickly thrown back into the roller coaster that “Gravity” is and the faults of the story sink away.
Alfonso Cuaron can take seven more years for his next project if it is anywhere as ambitious and well crafted as “Gravity.” He truly has an incredible vision and gift for bringing larger than life stories to the big screen. In a year that keeps getting better and better with each new release, “Gravity” should be required viewing for any serious film fan, as it immediately should be thrown into the conversation as one of the best sci-fi films ever.