Simple Story, Visual Mastery Mark Mesmerizing Gravity
- Friday, October 04, 2013
Release Date: October 4, 2013
Rating: PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language
Run Time: 90 min.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Some movies are labeled critic-proof. These are the movies that attract predictable audience response on opening weekend, usually action-oriented films starring huge names reciting stale dialogue. Audiences eat up such movies regardless of what critics say because they like the familiarity of the product—the same big stars, the same type of spectacle—nothing too challenging, but enough to satisfy.
Then there are movies that are review-proof: films so visually strange, hypnotic and flat-out unusual that their power is difficult to convey with words. Gravity is such a film. It demands superlatives for its visual presentation; it should be seen on a large screen, in 3D, to be fully appreciated. But it also is so concerned with an experience that it doesn't do much with character development.
Gravity is a wild 90-minute ride that’s tense, exhausting, even life affirming, but its characters' motivations are primal. Their survival is at stake, making the entire film feel like one big climax for people we don't really get to know. Although we root for them to survive, our interest in the characters' lives doesn't go much deeper than that. Your response to Gravity will depend on which element of moviemaking—visual inventiveness, characters with well-established motivation for their actions, or strong performances from the actors—means the most to you.
Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock, The Heat) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, The Descendants) are nearing the end of their mission in space. She's a "genius;" Kowalski refers to her as the one with a sharp scientific mind. By contrast, he's a kidder who dreams of breaking the record for longest spacewalk.
As they're making a repair to a telescope, they're told by Mission Control that debris from a destroyed Russian satellite is heading toward them, and it's approaching at speeds faster than a bullet. They need to get back inside their shuttle immediately, but Ryan, believing she can make just one more fix, delays their re-entry.
The delay proves fatal. The debris hits. The sequence is terrifying. We see Stone drift off into space and hear her panicked voice. The panic will subside and the tension will abate temporarily, but there will be much more to come—more spacewalking and more life-threatening moments as the duo, tethered together but floating in space, with almost nothing to prevent them from forever slipping away into the cosmos, walk to a space station and try to find a way back to Earth.
Kowalski is the voice of reason in Gravity. Although he jokes and yields to Stone's book knowledge, he's the one who talks her through moments when she's about to literally slip away. In fact, Clooney's voice is more of star in Gravity than his face; although we see the actor several times, we hear more of him.
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