Alfonso Cuarón’s anticipated sci-fi film Gravity recently opened the 70th Venice Film Festival and early reviews are consistently positive. Across the board, the performances of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are praised, along with the direction of Cuarón and the cinematography of his long-time collaborator, Emmanuel Lubezki. There was a surprising amount of support for the film’s technical aspects and use of CG effects, and reviews put forth the rare encouragement for audiences to seek the film in the fully-immersive 3D format. While some moments of sentimentality in Gravity apparently come off with a bit of a heavy hand, they earn a pass due to the film’s earnestness in the early going.
Gravity opens Stateside on October 4th. Hit the jump to sample some of the film’s early reviews.
Matt Mueller at Thompson on Hollywood:
If “Gravity” isn’t thematically as potent as “Children Of Men”, Cuaron’s allegory about an infertile world, it is nonetheless a mesmerising experience from start to finish, an extraordinary visual triumph that deploys 3D in prodigious fashion, turns the carnage of disintegrating space shuttles and hurtling satellite debris into a beautiful if perilous ballet (scored magnificently by Steven Price), and benefits in differing ways from the turns of its two star performers, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.
There’s too much superlative craft, ambition and intelligence on display for “Gravity” not to feature prominently in awards-season discussions, with Bullock furnishing a film that was crafted predominantly on hard drives the human touch it needs to reach earthbound audiences … “Gravity” reaffirms Cuaron’s position as a filmmaker of uniquely thrilling excellence.
Todd McCarthy at THR:
At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise. Not at all a science fiction film in the conventional sense, Alfonso Cuaron‘s first feature in seven years has no aliens, space ship battles or dystopian societies, just the intimate spectacle of a man and a woman trying to cope in the most hostile possible environment across a very tight 90 minutes … With all the excitement and beauty Gravity delivers, at a certain point … it becomes clear that Gravity doesn’t intend to offer more than that; it shies away from proposing anything metaphysical, philosophically suggestive or meaning-laden. For some viewers, that will be a good thing, as it avoids pretention and self-seriousness; for others, its refusal to acknowledge the eternal mysteries, to be anything more than a thrillingly made, stripped-down suspense drama, will relegate it to good-but-not-great status. The very ending is quite cool and replete with quiet cinematic as well as evolutionary reverberations.
Justin Chang at Variety:
“Gravity” is at once classical and cutting-edge in its showmanship, placing the most advanced digital filmmaking techniques in service of material that could hardly feel more accessible … As scripted by Cuaron and his son Jonas, this tale of one woman’s grim expedition into the unknown is a nerve-shredding suspenser, a daring study in extreme isolation, and one of the most sophisticated and enveloping visions of space travel yet realized onscreen. It falls among that increasingly rare breed of popular entertainments capable of prompting genuine “How did they do that?” reactions from even the most jaded viewers, even as its central premise is so simple and immediately gripping that one might just as readily ask, “Why didn’t anyone do it sooner?”
Guy Lodge at HitFix:
Some may feel disconcerted or even disappointed that “Gravity” shifts from a mode of cool (even avant-garde) observational spectacle to a more human-focused survival story – you might even choose to see it as a bloodless final-girl horror movie. The gear change comes with unceremonious abruptness, yet I couldn’t tell you if it’s later or earlier than halfway through. It may not sound like high praise that I had no sense of timing throughout this thrillingly brief 91-minute film, but I imagine you can’t feel the minutes ticking by in space either. The immersive rhythmic continuity of Lubezki’s camerawork and Cuarón and Mark Sanger’s deceptively tight editing is such that it’s hard to mentally organize the film into scenes and sequences after the fact.
I do know, though, that “Gravity” ends in a wholly different register – tonally, visually, emotionally – to the one it begins in, as Cuarón embraces both the Hollywood trappings and, more riskily, the amorphous spirituality of his script with an emphatic lack of apology … There’s a note of bombast to the finale that feels hard-earned after the staggering physical trials of what has gone before, and I do mean staggering: “Gravity” is a film both short and vast, muscular and quivery, as certain about one Great Beyond as it is curious about another.
Mark Adams at Screen Daily:
A genuinely tense and exciting lost-in-space thriller, Alfonso Cuaron’s exhilarating and often spectacular 3-D film is a real pleasure, driven by top-notch lead performance from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as well as some seriously cool special effects. Despite some lapses into sentimentality,Gravity sustains its simple concept and turns out to be a real audience pleaser …
John Bleasdale at Cine-Vue:
This is a film that has to be seen on the big screen (and, one would presume, IMAX where possible). Only the canvas of cinema can provide the grandeur, scale and – when it comes to the sound design – the volume to tell such an epic tale. The plot is one of a shipwreck, and the film shares something of the concerns of All Is Lost, the Robert Redford sea yarn from Cannes earlier in the year. As well as occupying itself primarily with the nuts and bolts of survival, Gravity explores deeper concerns about the very value of the life we’re trying to prolong … Gravity does occasionally falter when it strays towards the seemingly obligatory ‘bigger’ questions of religion and philosophical meaning. The beauty of what we see and the obvious, indifferent hostility of that same environment perhaps undermines some of the more hokey nods to spirituality that the scriptwriters – Cuarón and son Jonás – struggle to include. Their strong suit is undoubtedly aesthetics and suspense. With the aid of Emmanuel Lubezki’s stunning cinematography and British composer Steven Price’s thundering soundtrack, Cuarón has produced a spectacular sci-fi which doesn’t forget its wit, its intelligence nor its heart.