Review: Gravity

Gravity isn’t just a great movie, it’s a great experience that frequently astonishes, captivates and embraces the challenge of raising the bar on what we should expect from modern day films.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock, The Heat) is days away from completing her first shuttle mission.

GRAVITYShe lacks the enthusiasm of her fellow astronaut Shariff (Paul Sharma) or the laid-back demeanor of mission commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, The Ides of March) as they report in to Mission Control (Ed Harris, A History of Violence). She has a job to do and she just wants to get it accomplished, but a freak accident leaves her and Matt separated from the others desperately trying to survive.

While promoting the film, director/co-writer Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) called most 3D movies “crap” and he decided to show filmmakers how it should be done.

Since Avatar (Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray/ DVD Combo Pack)revitalized the 3D genre in 2009 and shattered box office, studios have greedily tried to capitalize on the format while offering mixed returns for audiences.

GRAVITYBut for every Tron: Legacy (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Copy) that actually warrants the extra costs, there’s three times as many The Last Airbenders that toss in lousy post-production work and rip off audiences who assume all 3D films are created equal.

In the case of Gravity, that’s happily not the case. Cuarón shows a commendable commitment to the paying customers by staging the most immersive 3D experience we’ve seen so far. While there’s a few objects coming “out” of the screen moments, Cuarón doesn’t let the 3D become gimmicky. The camera maintains a steady “floating” perspective, but it’s never distracting. Instead, the viewer is provided a welcome first-person sense of what it must be like to be in space. From the sense of weightlessness to the near claustrophobic feeling being in the space suits, this is as close as 99 percent of us will ever come to seeing Earth from the vantage point of the stars — and it looks amazing.

Emmanuel Lubezki’s cinematography is truly breathtaking. Shots like a slowly arriving sunrise and the vast darkness of space feel like we’re seeing it for the first time despite them being staples of countless science-fiction films. Steven Price’s score hits just the right notes in conveying the danger Ryan and Matt face without ever becoming too overwhelming.

GRAVITYCuarón co-wrote the script with his son, Jonas, which hopefully marks the first of many more collaborations if this is the result.

They craft a delicately understated theme that beautifully plays off the title while examining how life can weigh us all down and the freedom that comes from finally letting go. It’s a compelling narrative and one the Cuaróns smartly allow to progress naturally instead of hammering the point repeatedly to ensure the audience gets it.

No one plays the smooth, reassuring presence better than Clooney. He stays within his comfort zone here, but his supporting role is charming as ever and essential for the film as the soothing force to aid Ryan.

But the film orbits around Bullock, offering what has to be a lock for scores of year-end Best Actress awards. She’s essentially asked to provide a solo performance here and she takes the audience through a tremendously developed and complete character arc. She hits the gamut of emotions from terror, perseverance, despair, grief and acceptance.

GRAVITYIn the film’s pivotal moment, Bullock gives a powerful monologue that should be the clip used for her Oscar Best Actress nomination highlight.

Wisely, Cuarón doesn’t needlessly pad the film and tells the story in a tight 91 minutes that feels like just the right length.

With a slew of Oscar contenders to go in the next two months, there’s bound to be some serious competition, but for my money Gravity won’t be equaled as the year’s best. You’ll absolutely be cheating yourself if you miss it in theaters.

Rating: 10 out of 10

Photo Credit: Warner Bros. Pictures

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