Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Could Gravity be the most over-hyped, over marketed film of 2013? That’s what I wondered as I sat down in the theater to see the latest sci-fi film from the director of Children of Men. I had a ton of anticipation for Gravity and because of that my expectations were pretty high, which for me as a critic is a dangerous thing. Warner Brothers apparently had a lot of faith in the movie though because they’ve put summer blockbuster levels of marketing behind it. The lights went down, the theater went dark, and the film began.
Gravity isn’t simply a film, it’s a complete experience. Every tool used in this film in story, acting, audio, and visual is a part of the storytelling. The things that we see and hear aren’t bells and whistles or gimmicks, it all simply matters. Perhaps the most incredible part of the experience is that for the first time in film history the 3-D is necessary, absolutely necessary. You can enjoy the film without the 3-D but once you’ve seen it in that form you’ll miss it when it’s gone. The characters are in space, where there is no gravity, so the 3-D is expertly utilized to draw us into that world, that deadly silent vacuous world, that the characters in the film are existing. I compare it to seeing your favorite band live in concert versus listening to a CD. The CD experience is fantastic, but seeing a great band live adds more layers and texture to the experience that just can’t be reproduced on media. That’s the difference between seeing this movie in 3-D versus 2-D.
At face value the story of Gravityseems simple but once you’re watching it and not looking at a synopsis on a page you literally feel the depth to the story via the expert filmmaking but more so through the stellar acting of George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. Clooney is playing in a familiar and arguably comfortable character toy box for himself but with that said no one currently plays this sort of character better. As good as Sandra Bullock may have been in previous films her work in Gravity is her absolute best. She truly stretches herself in this film and shows herself to be as good an actor as any of her peers and better than some of them. This is absolutely a career making film for the two leads and director Alfonso Cuarón. Cuarón’s Children of Men was a good but flawed science fiction film but Gravity is pure perfection.
This review comes late because I needed to see the film again before I assigned a score to it. The score that I give this film is one that I’ve only ever given a few times and I just wanted to be sure I wasn’t awed by the visuals or some other aspect of the film. After a second viewing I found I liked the movie even better. Gravity is a truly profound theatrical experience that doesn’t happen very often. The emotional punch of it comes in waves and upon first viewing it almost didn’t fully realize itself until after I stepped out of the screening. The film is short and tightly scripted with no fluff or unneeded exposition. I have been digging for something to complain about and I’m just not finding it. You could try to argue that one of Bullock’s monologues is a little manipulative but when you consider that astronauts are trained to talk everything out so that whatever they are doing can constantly be monitored on their radios by mission control all of her and Clooney’s monologues are needed and expected.
The film is as innovative for the medium as Avatar was but the innovation doesn’t overtake the story, it’s all in support of the story. So, there’s no point in continuing to fight it. Gravity could absolutely be the best science fiction drama ever made, time will tell. I’m just going to simply give Gravity the score it deserves.