Gravity

"Space is disease and danger wrapped in darkness and silence." - Leonard 'Bones' McCoy

In space no one can hear you cry out in terror. They can't hear you scream in pain, or weep at the loss of a friend or loved one. Space is quiet and cold and empty, and to be honest I've never really grasped those truths about space except in an abstract way. Until watching this movie.

That's probably because in Hollywood, space rumbles. You can hear the rockets engage and burn with brilliant jets of blue or red flame. It gives you a sense of movement and weight. Because sound is something we need to use to reconcile what we see versus what we understand. For example; you see a crowd of people start to react to something, and a moment later you hear the sound and react with them. It's a part of our nature.

What happens when you can't hear what's coming? What if you are doing everything in your power, with the chips stacked against you, to simply open a door? (Or in this case, a hatch?) How can something like that be so harrowing, that you are literally on the edge of your seat?

Well, that's exactly what Gravity accomplished. It took simple actions, and things we take for granted, and turned them on their ear.


To elaborate; the only sounds in this movie are done through radio, and muffled through Ryan Stone's (Sandra Bullock) space suit. You can hear impacts, and breathing, and static and that's it. Except for the score, which never distracts from the experience. It is a remarkable thing to watch something get destroyed and not hear it happen. It's disconcerting and totally feeds into the tension. This film doesn't rely on tricks or jump scares. This is the kind of film that drops your stomach to your feet and makes you grip the arm rests for ninety minutes.

I believe this is Sandra Bullock's best work. She gives a nuanced and powerful portrayal of a woman in totally over her head, and who fights with everything she has to survive. George Clooney is also kind of perfect in his role as the seasoned astronaut whose calm, gravelly voice evens out the chaotic events happening around him. He's the hero archetype, and yet his character is so true that you believe he's real from nearly his first line. However, the real hero of this movie is the director, Alfonso Cuarón. He has crafted a masterpiece of tension and character that totally blew me away.

This is an utterly gorgeous movie, and I don't say that lightly. Every shot is perfectly framed, and the scope is stunning. The visual effects are incredibly realistic, to the point where it's difficult to tell where the real sets end and the effects begin. It's also a remarkably simple movie. There's no complex plot to figure out, nor are there monsters or laser guns. It is a very different kind of science fiction. The kind based on what could really happen, where reality and fiction merge in a way that is truly frightening.

I don't know if this is the best movie of the year, but it comes close. It also may not be for everyone. This film is stark and real, and occasionally difficult to watch. But it's excellent on every level. Oh, and I usually don't advocate 3D, but in this case it was totally worth the extra price of admission.

4 out of 4 Space Suits

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

8 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Wow. What a terrific review, J.D. Sounds like I'll have to see this one.

Anonymous said...

It's undoubtedly a fine movie, I only wish I had seen it before seeing all the uniformly perfect scores and reviewers trying to one-up each other in just how much praise they can heap on one movie.

Because after all that hype, I guess it's only inevitable you end up leaving the theater somewhat underwhelmed. In the end, it's a solid little movie that can't possibly live up to that idea of outrageous excellence you imagine after all the endless accolades.
Or maybe it was just the usual headache I get from the 3D glasses that lessened my enjoyment.

What I grealy enjoyed was reading this interview afterwards where a real astronaut tells how close to reality the movie really was: http://www.vulture.com/2013/10/astronaut-fact-checks-gravity.html
WARNING: Only read it after having watched the movie, it's full of spoilers.

J.D. Balthazar said...

Hype only ever bothers me when a) I've watched said hype (and I studiously avoided it for this movie). And b) the final result doesn't live up to expectations.

While I'll admit my expectations were not as high because of my avoidance of all the trailers and reviews, that didn't affect my reaction to the film. For me this was nearly a perfect movie. It is possible I might amend that feeling when I see it again, but I doubt it.

I'm not disrespecting your opinion Anonymous, I've just been burned so many times by hype that I'm automatically wary when something is advertised to death.

As for the 3D, yeah I thought it was spectacular in 3D. But if anyone has issues with headaches while wearing those stupid glasses, don't risk the pain for it, I'm not sure it's worth it. I imagine the 2D version is just as awesome to look at.

Joanie said...

Great review J.D.! My husband and I saw this movie in 3D and thoroughly enjoyed it. The visuals were AMAZING and it was very cool to see what it must look like when one is above the earth. Going to space would be very cool, but this movie definitely played on my biggest fear of space...floating into the universe, never to return. Very scary indeed! This movie was definitely awe inspiring and I believe could be enjoyed in 2D or 3D.

CrazyCris said...

Great review J.D.!

I was finally able to see it this past week, just before it ceded its 3D screens to Thor! :p

I really wanted to see it in 3D, and it was amazing!!! Did not disappoint! Yes, the visuals, the effects... all fabulous. But what had me was Sandra Bullock's performance! And George Clooney's suave nonchalance. Oh how I wished it had been in VO instead of dubbed!

On the 3D vs 2D front, a friend of mine went to see it in 2D and he said it was pretty obvious that the film had been made with 3D in mind so definitely make the effort if you can! I'm lucky that cinemas in my city are a bit desperate to bring in patrons (stupid crisis!) and have removed the supplement for 3D so the price is now the same! :o)

I thought the fire extinguisher was great! My dad loved the frog...

Alfonso Cuarón has yet to disappoint me! I just hope it doesn't take him so long for his next film... ;o)

CrazyCris said...

Another "damn!" about watching the film in Spanish... I read Ed Harris was the voice in Houston control? Damn! I missed it... bloody dubbing... *grumble*

Billie Doux said...

Terrific movie. I loved how Ryan wasn't really an astronaut at the beginning, but she slowly acquired the mindset as the movie progressed. And everything was so freaking *real* and believable.

CrazyCris said...

I saw this again on TV last weekend... and the tension was just as high as the first time I saw it! Not as "pretty" when it's not on the "big" screen, but was cool to hear them in English. :p Sandra Bullock was amazing!