Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gravity (2013)

At least there aren't any sharks in space.  Well, at least that we know of...

I bring up the sharks thing because I heard a lot of people comparing Gravity to Open Water.  While there's some similarity between the two, they really are much different films.  Since Open Water is based on real events you get a bigger feeling of dread, as you know from the beginning how it was going to turn out.  At least with Gravity there are glimmers of hope.  If there ever could be a movie like Gravity that was based off real events, I hope it doesn't happen until after we invent transporters or warp drive or something.

Engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are on a spacewalk while working on the Hubble.  Houston advises them that a Russian satellite has exploded but it's initially not a concern.  However, the debris has collided with another satellite and now it's heading directly for them.  There's no time to return to Explorer before they are hit.  The shuttle is destroyed stranding Kowalski and Stone, and communication with Houston is cut off as well.  Short on fuel and oxygen, they are left to find a way to the International Space Station.  As if things weren't bad enough, the debris field is travelling at high speed as it orbits Earth and is expected back every 90 minutes.

This pretty much sums up just the first ten minutes of Gravity, which is mercifully only 90 minutes.  I say "mercifully" because I don't think I would have been able to take much more.  I don't usually bite my nails, but I might have taken them down to the nubs.  Nearly everything that can go wrong does, and you desperately want them to catch a break.  There's a part towards the end where I feared something else horrible was going to happen, but I was letting my imagination get the better of me.  Don't worry, I'm not going to spoil anything.  In fact, that's all I'm really going to say about the story, as it didn't play out exactly like I thought it might.  Friends of mine can tell you how I've been angry that I thought the trailers were showing too much.  Fortunately, I didn't find that to actually be the case.

Gravity is being praised for it's scientific accuracy, but director Alfonso Cuarón admits that there are some inaccuracies.  I'm no rocket scientist, so I didn't notice these things, but they're there if you're looking for them.  I imagine that most are excited that the outer space scenes have no sound in them.  This lack of sound makes all the destruction that much more terrifying.  Imagine being surrounded by exploding satellites and shuttles without knowing it was happening unless you were looking directly at them.  I guess that would be kind of like how a shark would totally sneak up on you in the water.  You also get a real feeling for the lack resistance in space with how fast everything is going.  The slightest misstep or mistake and you're screwed.  I'm not sure how the anti-gravity scenes were done, but this is the kind of film I'm really looking forward to some kind of "making of" feature on the Blu-Ray.

The muted scenes and physics reminded me of the battle sequences in the modern Battlestar Galactica.  Gravity is punctuated with an eerie sci-fi score that really stood out.  The score by Steven Price is likely my favorite of the year and I'll be disappointed if he doesn't receive any love come awards-time.

Gravity is an absolutely beautiful movie.  I usually don't make note of a cinematographer, but Emmanuel Lubezki did some fantastic work here.  This is one of the few films I've seen that's definitely worthy of the IMAX format.  Even the 3D was very immersive and not distracting.  If you have a theater that offers IMAX or another premium format, like RPX, do not hesitate to spend the extra few bucks or wait until a showtime is available.

I don't know what else can be said about Alfonso Cuarón at this point.  I've loved everything I've seen of his so far.  He's an extraordinary director.  I really love how he resisted making this a spectacle of loud explosions.  That fact alone makes this a smarter sci-fi movie that avoids feeling like a blockbuster.

Lastly, I loved George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in their roles.  Clooney still gets to show his wry charm, and it's interesting to note that Robert Downey, Jr. was originally attached to the role.  I love RDJ, but he might have been a little too jokey.  Outside of Marion Cotillard, most of the names attached to Bullock's role I think would have been a mistake.  This is mainly due to the ages of the actors though.  I think I would have had a harder time buying into a twenty-something as an engineer/astronaut.  I felt Bullock was a natural in the role and her performance was great.  On a side note, Sandy's almost 50?  You wouldn't know it as there are some glory shots of her that really highlight how she's in killer shape, and it seemed to be saying, "Eat your heart out Jesse James!"

Gravity is a terrifying, intense visual masterpiece.  I can't think of a better looking film I've seen in the past few years.  It's expertly directed and acted, and is one of the top films of 2013.  This is one you don't want to miss on the big screen.

5 (out 5) Death Stars

Blowing my mind!

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