Sunday, October 13, 2013

Review: Gravity

Despite what you may have heard, director Alfonso Cuaron has not reinvented motion pictures and has not forever changed the way movies will be made.  What he has done is crafted a film in Gravity that is visually stunning, utilizing 3D technology in a way that is legitimately a part of the narrative, rather than as a gimmick to charge you six dollars.  So if you are one of those people who shy away from 3D because you think it wil, hurt your eyes or you don’t like the way you look in those plastic glasses, you are going to want to put those reservations aside and go see this movie because Cuaron has put together a solid film.

The plot of the film finds Astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) on a routine spacewalk.  Kowalski is on his final mission before retirement, while Stone is on her first mission and in the middle of performing some technical alterations to a satellite when a storm of debris rains down on them.  The resulting damage proves critical and leaves the two scrambling to survive the perils of space.

Having seen the film, the single most important thought that I can convey is that it’s probably not nearly as fun without 3D technology.  That’s not to say it’s all about the 3D, but this is a movie that relies on the physical space and its effect on the senses.  And because this movie was shot for 3D (as opposed to a post-production conversion), it utilizes the technology to fully immerse you in the experience.  Those visuals and the clever use of sound bring to life the cold vastness that is space.

But like any good film, Gravity does not rely on visuals alone.  Cuaron uses isolationism and claustrophobia to craft a taut tense movie, which is ironic because the events are set against the infinite backdrop that is space.  And like many other narratives that place their protagonists at the edge of the abyss, the film delves into issues such as hope, faith, and love.  In this regard, it is not unique, but entertaining nonetheless.

It cannot be overstated how vital the work of every actor is in this movie, especially when it features just two.  Sure Ed Harris has a minor vocal presence as the voice of Mission Control and Paul Sharma and Amy Warren flash briefly onscreen as other astronauts on the mission.  But really, nearly every single frame of this film is dedicated to the performances of Bullock and/or Clooney.

From the moment you hear Clooney snap off some cagey banter in his typical breezy delivery it is immediately apparent that he is on his game.  It helps that the role doesn’t demand that he  do anything that resides outside his range.  Rather, the script calls for the veteran actor to play an incarnation of himself – and allows for the kind of dry wit upon which his reputation has been built.   It all plays into this character of Matt Kowalski, a seasoned astronaut enjoying his last few moments in the proverbial sun.

As for Bullock, she is not exactly a slouch in this film either, though I think there are some issues with how her character is portrayed.  At the outset, Bullock does a good job of crafting this new to space astronaut – more research oriented than field-tested.  It plays into her ability to convey self-repression and apprehension.  But as the events of the film ramp up and the challenges crescendo, there is a fundamental shift in Bullock’s Doctor Stone, and while it is completely by design, it also causes some inconsistencies in her performance.  So while she is not completely to blame, the combination of Cuaron’s script and her acting makes disbelief increasingly difficult to suspend.

As for the science of the film, is it always spot on and completely plausible?  Of course not, because it’s a movie designed to entertain, not educate.  And to this end, Cuaron manages to craft a film that engages you and makes you feel invested in the characters to such an extent that you’re willing to overlook the details that can at times leave you scratching your head.  And that he layers this manner of storytelling with a rich audio and visual experience makes the film all the better.

Again, Gravity is not a film that will revolutionize the movie industry.  And contrary to the usual knee jerk reaction by most media outlets, it’s not going to sweep all the Oscar categories.  What Gravity is, is an entertaining movie that offers the kind of experience that should coax you to leave the comforts of your home to see it on the big screen.  Sure, it’s going to cost you a few extra bucks, but you won’t be thinking about that as you exit the cinema.  What more can you ask for?

Standout Performance:  George Clooney.  His performances have included more than a few misses recently, but this one plants a check firmly in the hit category.


Post a Comment