“Gravity” had an interesting ad campaign leading to its release. The trailers and TV spots practically told us nothing about the story. Astronauts are in space. A terrible accident occurs. That’s it. Yet there was something so attractive and intriguing about what we are shown. Throw in two top Hollywood A-listers (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) and an intriguing director and “Gravity” quickly became one of my more anticipated films.
Mexican filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron co-wrote, co-produced, and directed this film which could best be described as a space drama/thriller/survival tale soaked in intensity and pure visual splendor. Cuaron has a solid track record and critics have already heaped a ton of praise on him for “Gravity”. But in my experience enthusiasm from critics doesn’t always point to a great film. So my one big concern remained as I walked in for my Rave Xtreme Screen viewing of “Gravity”. Would it be a gorgeous spectacle filled with stunning eye candy but nothing else to really chew on?
First off there’s definitely more to “Gravity” that snazzy visuals. In fact, one of the film’s strengths is its ability to not only define its characters but to develop a strong and ultimately moving deeper meaning all within its limited space and with its limited dialogue. Much of this is a direct result of the ingenious writing from Cuaron and his son/co-writer Jonas. Their script is smart and strategic giving us morsels of information that over time paint a satisfying picture of who these characters are.
Even more compelling are the numerous themes which “Gravity” touches on. From being a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit to what I found to be a deeper and more personal spiritual meaning, “Gravity” is one of those rare gems that can touch people in a variety of different ways. The Cuarons clearly have this in mind but their execution of it all is nearly flawless. And while the visuals often take center stage, they are simply there to emphasize these greater points.
But perhaps the most affecting theme involves the clever imagery and references to infancy. The first I noticed involved a character floating in a zero gravity fetal position similar to a baby in a mother’s womb. At first I thought it was a slick homage but then I noticed other things. There are several childlike reactions and one particular scene where the same character, in a state of despair, talks in very childlike terms about never being shown how to pray. The infancy metaphor is wrapped up in the film’s fabulous final shot. The idea of starting over, being reborn, and standing up to embrace a new life is beautiful in both message and presentation. It’s that final shot and its stirring message that solidified my love for this picture.
Oh, and did I mention this film takes place in space? While I may have been surprised that this movie had as much emotional pop as it did, I wasn’t a bit surprised that it looked so good. Quite honestly this is one of the most visually stimulating experiences I’ve had at the theater in some time. With the exception of one brief scene, the entire film takes place in the Earth’s orbit. In this setting Cuaron captures both the vastness of space and the claustrophobic confines of spacesuits, space stations, and space shuttles. I found it to be extremely effective. There were also moments where I was caught up in the sheer beauty of what I was seeing.
But the effects really reach a new level once a catastrophic accident occurs which propels the main story. The mind-blowing realism of these scenes are amazing. They ratchet up the intensity by drawing you in and I constantly found myself trying to dodge shrapnel or blinking for fear of being struck by debris. Those reactions are one reason this film should be seen on the biggest screen possible. It also features the rarity of some well implemented 3D. Now I don’t think the 3D was utilized as well as it could have been, but it certainly had those moments that really stood out.
And I have to give props to the two wonderful performances from George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Clooney is rock solid as always and some of the film’s best lines belong to his character. But this is really Bullock’s movie and she knocks it out of the park. She flawlessly handles all of the physical and emotional requirements of her character and she’s a vital component to the film’s success. It was also cool hearing Ed Harris’ voice as Houston mission control (“Apollo 13” anyone). He’s just one of several tips of the hat that “Gravity” throws out there.
I haven’t said much about the story and that’s intentional. The less you know going in the better. To be honest, there’s not a lot of story there. Yet when mixed with the assortment of thought-provoking motifs and breathtaking atmosphere, it seems perfect for its 90 minute package. I’m really curious about how it views on a smaller screen and if people will think as highly of the film a few years down the road. But for me the initial experience was unforgettable. Completely original, strikingly bold, and brilliantly made. It’s a movie that actually lives up to its hype and it should be a sure-fire contender come Oscar night.
VERDICT – 5 STARS