Gravity Review: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney Face Space

Gravity Review: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney Face SpaceFor a moment, picture yourself out in the middle of nowhere. It could be out in the middle of the ocean, an endless field or a desert. You have no way to communicate with the rest of the world, the horizon goes on forever and the silence is deafening. Now, take that feeling and place yourself in the infinite dark reaches of space. It’s a pretty unsettling feeling, one that is conveyed incredibly well in Alfonso Cuaron’s magnificent new drama Gravity.

The story, credited to Cuaron and his son Jonas, is a simple one. Debris from a destroyed Soviet satellite smashes into the space shuttle Explorer, killing its entire crew save two people who were working outside the ship. The two are veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) and a medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). As luck would have it, this mission is Ryan’s first trip into space. With oxygen levels depleting rapidly and communication completely cut off from the planet several hundred miles below them, Stone and Kowalsky race against time to make it to the nearby International Space Station in the hopes of getting back to Earth.

Gravity Review: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney Face Space

Far too often these days we get big-budget effects movies guilty of the “shiny keys” syndrome: the spectacular state-of-the-art visuals are meant to divert our attention from a poorly written script and cliched characters. As budgets continue to skyrocket, this is sadly becoming the norm in the industry. Every so often though, we get an exception: a big-budget studio film that pays attention to the human and visual aspects in equal amounts. Last year it was Life of Pi. This year, it’s Gravity.

The technical brilliance that Cuaron, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and their visual effects and sound teams use to transport the viewer into space is nothing short of remarkable, which is beneficial when it comes to maintaining the high level of tension that runs throughout the movie’s 91-minute runtime. In addition, the Mexican filmmaker perfectly balances the intimate with the spectacular. For every grand scene of destruction, there are quiet, thoughtful thematic examinations on death, survival, birth (and rebirth) and letting go.

Gravity Review: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney Face Space

Despite the presence of Clooney, who is great, Gravity is Sandra Bullock’s movie first and foremost. I haven’t been the biggest fan of Bullock’s work over the years, but after seeing her performance here I have newfound respect for the Oscar winner. She has a tremendous amount to carry on her shoulders and she does a damn fine job doing so. Even if the character arc Stone goes through is a bit predictable (the film’s one weakness), it’s an engrossing one thanks to Bullock. I never saw The Blind Side but I would be hard-pressed to think that her Oscar-winning work in that film is better than her turn here.

Gravity has been making the film festival rounds recently and early feedback from the press has been nothing short of rapturous. Usually when that happens, the film doesn’t live up to the hype. Gravity is that rare exception. Not only does it live up to its hype, it actually exceeds it. An exciting, intense, frightening and at times quite moving tale of survival, Gravity is the only film this year I think demands that you experience on a big screen and in 3D. It’s that good.

– Shawn Fitzgerald

Gravity is rated PG-13 and opens in theaters everywhere on October 4, 2013.

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