Gravity: Shock and Awe

Neil Worcester – Deluxe Video Online

Movie Review: Gravity
Soundtrack NOT by Pink Floyd.
Movie Review: Gravity
Facial cues are key to Gravity’s emotional heft.

Gravity is a rare movie of complimentary opposites.  Set in the vastness of space, it is by turns sweeping in its scale yet claustrophobic in its atmosphere.  Dominated visually by computer generated imagery, yet driven by the subtle lines of emotion simply evoked by facial expression.  It is no coincidence that the marketing for Gravity consists of two stark images:  A lone floating figure, rendered anonymous by distance and dwarfed by the enormity of outer space; and the close up image of desperation clearly visible on a human face.  These images capture the two warring emotions Alfonso Cuaron delicately balances in his audience in order to drive the tension found in Gravity.

Movie Review: Gravity
This…but more space. A lot more space.

Any description of the narrative of Gravity threatens to spoil the enjoyment of it.  The twists and turns are so finely crafted and interesting, it would be a great disservice to mention them.  This may seem to say that Gravity is only good for one viewing, but I feel the same shyness is required when describing other excellent drama’s, Hitchcock’s Rear Window and The Birds easily coming to mind.  I would rather eat glass than ruin the plot of those movies for a new viewer, but they are equally wonderful with each viewing.

Suffice it to say, the action of the movie takes place in space, during an upgrade to the Hubble telescope involving a veteran astronaut (George Clooney, absolutely killing it here) and a determined, but inexperienced, scientist (Sandra Bullock, proving my pessimism very wrong.  She’s wonderful.)  Tragedy strikes.  And strikes.  And strikes again.  The two must survive all manner of threat, yet to Cuaron’s credit, the threats are all credible.  As the opening crawl states, space is a very mean customer, and very little help is needed for it to ruin your day.

Movie Review: Gravity
Uh…pass the doohickey…roger.

Visually, this movie is easily the most beautiful and awesome offering this year.  I say that despite dearly loving the jaw dropping scale of Del Toro’s Pacific Rim, and the overblown spectacles of both Star Trek Into Darkness and Man of Steel.  You will not find a prettier movie this year, unless something truly earth shattering is being concealed by Hollywood.  The CG work is seamless, and the switches from long to close shot, and from close to first-person are truly masterworks.  The central tension of this movie is the stark contrast between endless space and the very small and human characters caught up in it.  The cinematography all support this tension beautifully.  And the 3D

Movie Review: Gravity
Pictured: Not 3D’s best moment.

Many viewers are ambivalent about the nature of 3D movies.  Often, they are tedious and murky, hiding most of the sub par camera work with darkness and occasionally flinging axes and water at the screen in order to wake up a somnambulist audience.  Other times, they are completely unnecessary, adornments that actually take away from the visual heft of the film.  Few, such as Peter Jackson’s Hobbit, and Ridley Scott’s Prometheus, use the added depth of field to breathtaking effect (despite being less than stellar films, prompting one to wonder if 3D has become a crutch to poorly plotted scripts?)  Gravity is the definition of a 3D movie done correctly.  The audience around me gasped and squirmed as the visuals struck them, and I found myself mimicking the actions of the  actors, in a way I only do when playing a particularly immersing video game.  If you have the extra to spend, see it in 3D, please.

Movie Review: Gravity
Calm and quiet.

The score and sound effects are equally impressive.  Once again, the opening crawl announces that sound cannot be heard in space, and Cuaron uses this to ramp up tension and dislocate the audience.  Climactic action occurs in dead silence, and switches quickly back and forth between riotous sound and deep calm.  The use of breathing and small vocalizations create terror that swelling orchestras and screaming chainsaws can only dream off.  Which is not to say that the music is absent.  Steven Price’s themes are appropriate and weighty, but the movie lacks a recurring motif a la 2001‘s blarring horns.  Once again, the contrast is key to Gravity‘s success, and the sound effects and music all support that centrality strongly.

Gravity is not perfect.  No movie is.  Despite excellent overall acting by Clooney and Bullock, there are several times where the astronauts make baffling decisions in order to heighten tension at the expense of credulity.  Several aspects of the overall action made the physics nerd in me wonder if such things could actually occur, and like many thrillers, danger and salvation sometimes happen just because they need to happen.  But not often.  If a science fiction story only activates the bullshit detector with a few minor blips, I’m willing to turn it off in order to enjoy such a highly entertaining film.

Time will tell if Gravity will be regarded as either a great movie or merely a very good one.  But it’s quality is such that many will argue for greater merit, not less.  Can the tension of the film be sustained for multiple viewings, and is the 3D component essential to the enjoyment of the film are also questions that will be asked repeatedly as Oscar time nears.  That this movie will be heavily nominated is almost forgone.   As mentioned, this film is a rarity, able to create maximum tension by holding onto diametrically opposing qualities for as long as possible.  You could do far worse this season than to join this fateful trip into the darkness of space.

See it instead:Gravity Deluxe Video Online



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