(directed by Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
****+ (out of 5)
> This absolute stunner is a rare case of popular tastes coinciding with critical adoration. The public and film critics are in rare agreement about this one: GRAVITY is the best film of the year (so far). No, it ain’t great art, but it damn well is great filmmaking! As a technical achievement, it is unparalleled. Young Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN, CHILDREN OF MEN) proves once again that he belongs in the very top tier of living directors. GRAVITY is a stunning achievement in every sense of the word.
. GRAVITY is an intimate, claustrophobic film, (written by Cuarón with his son Jonás), about two astronauts conducting a spacewalk in an impossibly hostile environment, who are hit by a barrage of space junk that destroys their craft, kills most of the crew and leaves them castaways in space with no practical way home. This is a stripped-down, bare-bones outing, without an ounce of fat on its lean, muscular frame. It is an intense survival story that leaves you breathless, sitting on the edge of your seat for the entire 91 minute running time, that feels a fraction as long, when the film grabs you by the throat within a few minutes and never letting go until the nailbiting conclusion.
. There is a big plot development here that is entirely unexpected, and I am proud of reviewers for showing the necessary restraint to avoid spoiling the fun. If you’ve seen it you know what I mean, and I implore you to show the same restraint when suggesting this film to others- which you will!
. The use of both silence and a grand, expressive soundtrack is highly effective. The acting is stellar- especially by mainstream actress Sandra Bullock who gives what most will agree is the best performance of her career. She may not take home the statuette, but she will be deservedly nominated for Best Actress for this outing. This is only justice. GRAVITY is Bullock’s film, and she is a large part of why it works so well.
. This was hands-down the best use of 3-D technology I’ve ever seen. I read that preview audiences gasped at the image of an astronaut’s tears floating away from her face in the weightlessness of the spacecraft. Talk about an appropriate, effective use of technology: to underscore emotional fireworks versus carnage and explosions- though we get that here as well, in highly effective fashion! I’ll bet it’s hugely effective in IMAX (let alone IMAX 3-D!) though I’ve read the disorientation of the spacewalking scenes caused great fits of nausea to some, effectively approximating what it must be like to be floating freely in space, with no real up or down to hold on to.
. There really isn’t a whole lot to GRAVITY. There doesn’t need to be. It is at heart, a survival film. If you don’t care for the genre, it’s not likely to do much for you outside of the considerable technical achievement that absolutely will be remembered come Oscar season. (It was. Emmanuel Lubezki won for best cinematography, as he would one year later, for BIRDMAN.) But if you like these kinds of films as much as I do- you could not possibly find a more entertaining movie, from the opening mayhem to the terrifically heart-pounding final shot!
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