The minimalist story involves astronauts (George Clooney as the mission captain, Matt Kowalski and Sandra Bullock as specialist Ryan Stone) installing a new camera on the Hubble space telescope. After 5 minutes of breathtaking FX shots (Clooney’s Kowalski, remarking on his last spacewalk before retirement, intones, “You can’t beat the view.”) disaster strikes and the remaining 90 minutes are spent gripping your armrests and holding your breath.
I’m not a fan of 3D. I think it’s a gimmicky cash-grab that studios tack on in post when they want to artificially inflate a film’s box office by charging higher ticket prices. That being said, this film is the best argument anyone could ever make for the medium. You can’t help but feel like it must have felt back in the '70s when they saw Kubrick’s ‘2001’ for the first time. Or better still - when they saw Georges Melies’ ‘A Trip to the Moon’ way back in 1902. It feels downright revolutionary.
Never before has 3D been used so effectively to draw you into a film and help immerse you in the experience. Avatar *looked* cool, but it didn’t manage anything close to this. Using various POV and FX-shots, Alfonso Cuaron succeeds in making the audience part of the film – you’ll feel like you’re out there floating yourself. The dull, muted sound effects (because space) serve to add to the experience. There are times when the only sound you hear is breathing and the rapid thump-thump-thump of the character’s heart. Soon you’ll realize it’s not just their heart that’s pounding, either. It’s an incredible experience and it simply would not have been possible without the use of 3D.
Of course, for all the technical brilliance demonstrated, the movie would fall flat were it not for the rock-solid performances of the two leads. Though very little exposition is provided, they manage to craft characters we care for – and when you think that basically the entire movie is just the two of them in front of a green screen, that’s an incredible feat. Though Bullock’s Ryan Stone is unquestionably the star of the film, I found George Clooney’s performance managed to eclipse it as his all-American space hero, Captain Stanley Kowalski, could’ve easily fallen into simple caricature (like my esteemed friend noted, a live-action Buzz Lightyear), however he manages to keep him grounded, relatable and likable.
Director Alfonso Cuaron (who has previously filmed the incredible 2006 dystopian sci-fi gem, Children of Men, as well as the best Harry Potter movie, The Prisoner of Azkaban, among others) keeps the pace up and barely gives his viewers a chance to catch their breath. It’s a dizzying film, but given its subject matter, the breakneck pace suits it perfectly. It clocks in at just over an hour and a half and by the time it’s through you’ll need to take a moment to decompress before leaving the theater. The aforementioned CG-aided cinematography simply needs to be seen to be believed and he utilizes POV shots in an absorbing, engrossing manner.
Gravity is nothing short of a filmmaking triumph. It’s a mesmerizing spectacle. An utter joy to watch that serves as a master-class in pacing and shows that great science-fiction doesn’t have to take place in a galaxy far, far away. Its use of 3D will serve as the new standard-bearer for the industry and is one of the only movies I will ever recommend that you *must* see in that specific format. Better still, see it in IMAX. See it in 3D. Just see it. Space is a vacuum and this film will take your breath away.
What I’m Playing: GTA V for X-Box 360
What I’m Reading: X-Files season 10 (IDW), Batman Zero Year (Scott Snyder)