Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, is directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men), and is the story of what happens when something goes horribly awry during a NASA mission to install some new technology on the Hubble Space Telescope.
If you saw the trailer and you’re like me, you had 2 reactions:
1. Holy crap that’s terrifying!
2. How do they plan on making a whole movie out of that?!?
Well I’m happy to report that #1 is completely accurate and #2 is not a problem. Gravity manages the difficult task of being both a terrific and terrifying film. I spent a good three quarters of the movie holding my breath, squirming in my seat, and cringing in fear. I’m also pretty sure I threw in the occasional hand waive and spontaneous exclamation. It’s like a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies (no blood, monsters, serial killers, clowns, etc., but chock full of fear and suspense). I highly recommend seeing it, but only if you are not at risk for high blood pressure or stroke. Whew.
George and Sandra are the only 2 actors that actually appear in the movie. Some excellent but brief voice work is done by a few others (complete with a lovely nod to a certain other movie about something going wrong during a space mission) and George is as charming as ever, but the movie really belongs to Sandra and she absolutely kills it. No spoilers here about who, if anyone, survives but I can say I completely bought into what she was experiencing. Her decisions and actions, even if I didn’t agree with them, felt organic and appropriate for the character and what she was going through. Most importantly, I cared about what happened to her. Without that, this movie would have been beautiful but fallen completely flat.
There is one more, non-billed star of Gravity, and that’s the visual effects. Alfonso Cuaron has done a spectacular job of conveying the awe-inspiring beauty and vastness of space. The screening I saw was in 3D IMAX and although I don’t particularly enjoy 3D, seeing it at the IMAX really enhanced the experience for me and probably added to my feelings of anxiety because it was easier to empathize with the feelings of aloneness and terror the characters go through at the prospect of being stuck out in space because of the enormous IMAX screen.
The other wonderful thing about Cuaron here is how he set up shots that kept track of frequent changes in orientation and perspective, all while clearly presenting what was happening and keeping it realistic. Do you remember the much talked about, 30 minute-ish, single shot scene from Children of Men? There’s nothing like that here but there are shot setups and movements that reminded me of that iconic scene because of how well Cuaron used the movement of the camera to emphasize what was happening in a scene and to draw the viewer into the emotion of the moment.
There is no sound in space and even though some genius in marketing added some in for the trailers, the movie gets it right. I’m no physics expert so I could be wrong, but everything that happened was unnervingly plausible. That’s one of the keys to how emotionally effective the movie is, the actors draw you in and make you care and the action realistic.
Is Gravity a great movie? Yes. Will I want to watch repeatedly? Probably not. I’d be up for a second time maybe, just so I can focus on the beautiful visuals instead of being caught up in the not knowing what is going to happen, but this is not one of those movies that I could watch over and over again. That being said, should everyone go see it at least once? Hell yes.