GRAVITY Review

by     Posted 329 days ago

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[This is a re-post of my review from the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.  Gravity opens tomorrow.]

In the universe, we are so infinitesimal, and that realization is so scary and so beautiful. We’re on this little ball of dirt and water, and we live rich, complex lives, as the vastness of cold, dark space surrounds us. Our problems on Earth feel so insurmountable, and yet they’re nothing compared to the void above. We look up at the sky, and feel wonder, fear, freedom, and despair. With his space-set dramatic thriller Gravity, writer-director Alfonso Cuarón has conjured these emotions in one of the most immersive films I’ve ever seen. Through Cuarón’s movie, we see not only the fearsomeness of space and the awe of our planet, but all of the dazzling effects, breathtaking action, and electric thrills are in service to a sad, moving tale of being trapped by hopelessness and fighting to endure.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is in outer space with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) to install special equipment on the Hubble telescope. Stone only has about six months of training but the chatty Kowalsky is at ease and in control. But as the two are working to complete the mission, debris from a destroyed Russian satellite begins raining down on their shuttle, and a desperate Stone struggles to survive by finding her way home through the emptiness of space.

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The technical bravura on display in Gravity is utterly remarkable. Special equipment had to be invented in order to realize Cuarón’s vision for the film, and the hard work that went into creating that equipment has been well worth the effort. I can’t remember the last time I was completely immersed in a film from start to finish. The movie begins with a 20-minute long, unbroken shot that never for a moment feels like Cuarón showing off. On the contrary, we quickly stop noticing as we turn our attention to the plot and characters, but we can always feel the lack of a cut. The scene is perfectly paced without a single edit to guide the action.  Instead, Cuarón relies on camera placement, music, and the performances.

That’s all we get in that opening, and what we get takes our breath away. We forget to breathe. We forget that Stone can’t die in the first twenty minutes otherwise there’s no movie. We jump at every piece of debris that rips apart the shuttle even though there’s no accompanying sound effect (Cuarón is scientifically faithful by having no sound in the vacuum of space). Cuarón’s complete, exacting control makes us feel out of control as we go tumbling into the void. The movie also proves that even in moments of absolute terror, the reassuring voice of George Clooney is one of the most powerful forces in the solar system if not the galaxy.

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However, the film’s true star is Bullock. Most of the movie rests on her performance, and Stone has to face more than just the immediate, grab-on-to-something-anything-seriously-I’m-freaking-out-here troubles that come when a field of shrapnel the size of space station comes headed her way. Stone is also facing some serious emotional trauma, and Bullock does a wonderful job of taking the character’s pain and not simply becoming mopey or sullen. She’s distant, and that distance is represented by one of the many visual metaphors layered throughout the film. The emptiness of space fits her better than the life she has 372 miles below on Earth.

The visual cues are one of the many ways Cuarón organically weaves in the film’s themes and emotions with the surface thrills that get our blood pumping. Throughout the picture, Stone is either struggling to get free of a tether or grasping to hold on to something. She’s both trapped by her circumstances and clinging to the edge of life. And for all of the chaos surrounding Stone, Earth remains below—constant and stunning. The question is how hard she’s willing to fight to get back, and if she feels like there’s any point in returning.

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Stone’s journey is a potent reminder that hope is good, but perseverance is better. Hope is almost like a wish. Hope is optimism, a reason to keep going, and there’s nothing wrong with that. But perseverance is the ability keep going, and Gravity celebrates and emphasizes that quality. If life were ever deemed small, it would be against the vastness of space. Gravity shows that’s when life matters the most if you assume your life is worth living. It would be undoubtedly terrifying to float out further into space until you perish, but the determination to return, to hang on, and to bridge the distance is what’s inspiring, and it’s a sentiment that’s earned from the gorgeous craftsmanship on display.

I can’t emphasize enough the majesty of Gravity. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Before the movie was even over, I wanted to watch a Blu-ray stacked with special features so I could learn about the making of the movie. I wanted to own Steven Price’s dynamic, stirring score. I wanted to go right back into the theater and see it again in IMAX 3D. Longtime readers will know I have no love for 3D, and while I’m sure Gravity will still work in 2D, it’s a movie where the IMAX 3D experience is ideal. Don’t go for a half-measure; Cuarón certainly didn’t.

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Gravity is cinema at its most powerful.  It’s where honest, human drama meets daring spectacle. The film is unabashedly earnest in its emotion and unrelentingly forceful in its action. Alfonso Cuarón has crafted a movie that is terrifying, dazzling, bold, and triumphant. And yet these adjectives feel small against the glorious and profound backdrop of outer space and the story Cuarón has created within it. Gravity holds us in thrall for every single second, and we want to hold on for dear life.

Rating: A

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  • Junesong

    I Loved it in spite of its script which sometimes veered into sentimental cheese, breaking cinemas golden rule of “Show don’t Tell” – but the movie’s epic scale, visual genius and edge of your seat suspense more than make up for it. One of those great movies that make you wonder “How did they DO that!?” A must watch – especially in 3D.

  • Sandy Davis

    It’s too bad Cuaron had to spoil what would have otherwise been a masterpiece with all of his Christian malarky. Anyone who has a sufficient understanding of basic science would dismiss Christianity outright so it ruins my suspension of disbelief to believe someone intelligent enough to become an astronaught wll also be a Christian.

    • George

      You’re right, Sandy Davis. Artists should not be allowed to add their personal touch to their art, especially the people who write and direct their own work.
      Please do me a favor and get away from art, or change your opinions and be more open to different kinds or artistic representation. It’s fine if you didn’t like it, but it doesn’t make the movie worse for being there.

      • Sandy Davis

        Nobody going to a space movie about stranded astronaughts wants to witness a polemic about how God’s divine intervention will save the day because A) God doesn’t exist, B) God has never saved the day nor wil he ever (refer to point A as to why), and C) religion is the worst thing humanity ever invented and is actively holding back human progress, e.g. : the current quamire in the Middle East is a direct result of religion.

      • Strong Enough

        astronaughts? lmaooo what a troll

      • Sandy Davis

        I knew Strong Enough would be religious. All the sub-mental are.

      • Strong Enough

        hey at least i dont’ spell astronauts “astronaughts” lmao

      • Dilpickledoado

        I hate religion. It is all human made garbage to control people. I grew up atheist. But I don’t have the arrogance to claim I know how the universe was start or how it wasn’t. The concept of a god of somekind… even if it so ultra advanced machine civilization that goes around making universe’s… doesn’t conflict with science. If a god like entity existed, science would eventually be able to prove its existence once we are advanced enough.

      • Kendrick Wong

        And you are going straight to hell real soon. Your thoughts and opinions are worthless. So, stfu. Fool.

    • George

      By the way, I’m an atheist.

      • Sandy Davis

        No you’re not.

      • Mac

        He tells you what he is, and you tell him that’s he’s not. You are an idiot.

      • Sandy Davis

        He’s obviously one of those closet Christians or Agnostics who say they are atheist but then are all like “actually this load of horseshit isn’t retarded and here’s why; I’m an atheist so my giving credence to this bullshit lends this bullshit more credence.”

      • Kendrick Wong

        And so this world exist by itself ? Can your Iphone exist by itself ? Or you iOS just sprung outta nowhere ?
        U dumb athiest fool

      • Sandy Davis

        He’s obviously one of those closet Christians or Agnostics who say they are atheist but then are all like “actually this load of horseshit isn’t retarded and here’s why; I’m an atheist so my giving credence to this bullshit lends this bullshit more credence.”

      • Mac

        He tells you what he is, and you tell him that’s he’s not. You are an idiot.

    • bidi

      literally just got done with a religious debate with my roommate after we saw this movie, so all i’m going to say is that the faith thing (as multiple religions were on display) seemed to simply be a catalyst for her hope, and her renewed desire to do whatever it took to make it home

      • Sandy Davis

        Faith is the absence of reason. Condoning it is to condone millenia of atrocities carried out in the name of fictional characters in a story book. It’s reprehensible.

    • Vikou

      You’d be incredibly suprised if you knew how many first-class

      scientists and very reputed astronauts are religious.
      And, as George says, art without the imprint of the artist is not art, by definition. Open up yor mind.

      • Sandy Davis

        If you believe in God you’ve willing shut off the rational part of your mind because you are mentally weak. This is just how it is.

      • celxx

        See you in hell. xoxo.

      • Sandy Davis

        I doubt we’ll see each other in hell because it doesn’t exist. It was practically invented by Dante in his epic poem The Divine Comedy; it’s a book, you should try reading a few so you become more educated and rational. You probably won’t believe in Heaven or Hell because you’ll become more intelligent.

      • Kendrick Wong

        Hell does exist, and you gonna enjoy it with all ur atheist friends, u wont be lonely, im sure u all can get to know each other, for eternity which is a dammn long time, lmao

      • Arthur Dent

        It’s your way or the highway, right? You are a closed-minded fool. There are many people who rationally accept science and are religious at the same time. Not everyone who is religious believes the earth is 6000 yrs old. You are the mentally challenged idiot that apparently cannot realize that things are not necessarily black and white.

      • Sandy Davis

        Insulting other’s makes baby Jesus weep blood tears and its antithetical to Christianity’s edicts. Take your hypocrisy elsewhere please.

      • Arthur Dent

        Spectacular response. Truly amazing wit on display there! /s

        Thanks for backing up what I said.

      • Sandy Davis

        Haha, look at the guy getting all upset about his people not believing his storybook. What a cad!

      • Arthur Dent

        Keep going. You look more like an intolerant ass with each post.

      • Sandy Davis

        Tolerating religious people has led to the stalemate in Washington as Tparty zealots hold your nation hostage and the strife in the middle east. The time for tolerance toward religion has long since past.

      • Matt

        Sandy, as a member of your team, I though you should know you are looking like an ass with a bone to pick. Drop it, and celebrate this film with or without whatever religious iconography you identify.

      • Sandy Davis

        It’s time we got the religious freaks put in their place. Anything that promotes religion should be considered hate speech.

      • Sandy Davis

        It’s time we got the religious freaks put in their place. Anything that promotes religion should be considered hate speech.

      • Kendrick Wong

        Its time u examine your head

      • Matt

        Sandy, as a member of your team, I though you should know you are looking like an ass with a bone to pick. Drop it, and celebrate this film with or without whatever religious iconography you identify.

      • Kendrick Wong

        Haha, u definitely is a woodwork. Even Pinnochio has a father u know, which was his “maker”, the wood work carpenter.
        Hell, u are stupid, too funny. Atheist are woodworks, so things just sprang outta nowhere without explanation.
        That is pure ignorance and stupidity.
        And u guys dwells in ur stupidity and enjoying all the mocks u can get, potraying how stupid u all are….

        EPIC

      • Kendrick Wong

        Im sure u sprang outta a rock or a woodwork. U definitely is, coz normal human comes out from mother’s womb, which is an amazing thing, which is science, which is biological, which is a miracle, which is the LOVE OF GOD.
        So, does ur parents originate from pine or rosewood ?

  • bidi

    i loved this movie. i’m sure it’s something that will look good on blu ray, but this right here is why we go to the movies. i’ve never felt this immersed in a movie before. the spectacle and the grandeur was just awe-inspiring. not to mention this thing was tense as fuck. i laughed (well, i smiled/chuckled), i cried (i teared up), and it was just a really beautiful, affecting movie. Cuaron will at least be nominated for best director, if he doesn’t just run away with it. the long shots MY GOD! finally, someone is willing to let things ride out and just let the actors act. it gives such a more natural impression. this is what needs to be done more, rather than garbage like Transformers – or even most Nolan movies – where we’re constantly cutting shots every half a second. i have some minor gripes with it, but overall this was just an incredible, beautiful, spectacle of a movie. kudos to Mr. Cuaron

  • LEM

    Movies like this should always use unknown or little known actors because marquee names just take you out of it.

    • Matt

      Disagree. The two leads were great.

      • LEM

        You missed the point.

      • LEM

        You missed the point.

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  • Strong Enough

    IMAX 3D is the only way to see this. best film of the year so far.

    • Collider’s Readership

      Nobody takes your opinion seriously. Nobody cares what you say.

      • Strong Enough

        you mad bro?

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  • Colin Christian

    The small amount of God stuff didn’t bother me at all,whatever.I’m an Atheist but I don’t let that get in my way of my adoration of The Exorcist either,what,I can’t listen to Mozart? Stupid rules are the reason I don’t like Religion in the first place.

    • Kendrick Wong

      Then you shame your surname

      • Colin Christian

        Hilarious! I’m being told I’m wrong by a guy that believes in a talking snake! So,did they get dinosaurs in the Ark too,or is that just silly,everyone knows you could only fit animals in there! lol!

      • Kendrick Wong

        It is logical to build an ark and fit animals into it.
        It is not logical for the ark to exist outta woodwork, so Noah took a looooong time to build it.
        But it is logical too, u are an ignorant and arrogant fool to challenge God’s existence.
        For u, and the worms underground, things just existed outta no-where. Amazing thinking.
        Now lets go back to the film itself.

  • Kendrick Wong

    This film is so realistic and makes you live inside Ryan Stone, her fear, her panic, her endurance, her survival, and her will.
    Its one of the dramatic n emotional film ever affect every audience personally.
    BRAVO !

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