QUICK SETUP-Sandra Bullock is Ryan Stone, a medical engineer working on a space shuttle captained by Matt Kowalski(George Clooney) who is one of those just about to retire easygoing storytellers that one would require while up in the stars working on machinery. When a shattered Russian satellite collides with their shuttle, destroying everything and sending Stone and Kowalski into space attached to one another, they have to rely on his experience and her will to make it to safety. In other words, to make it home.
MY TAKE-There are few things scarier than being lost in space. Suspended without hope and a leaking supply of oxygen while holding the best view of earth anyone will ever lay claim to. Alfonso Cuaron’s stunning new film, Gravity, puts two people in the worst possible situation up in space. Stranded without contact. For 90 tightly wound minutes with a natural born suspense, the movie holds you in its grasp like a hostage to beautiful cinema. You won’t see a more visually breathtaking movie this year and Cuaron’s film(which he co-wrote with his son Jonas), ranks as one of the year’s best by keeping things simple, moving and alert.
Bullock has never been better and puts in better work here than she did for her Oscar winning performance in The Blind Side. It’s a personal, remarkably sound and heartfelt performance that sets Sandra up in Castaway mode for most of the film. Clooney hasn’t been this good in years, creating this calm, comforting, and charming personality that doesn’t just keep Bullock’s Stone calm for the duration of his role, but he also puts the audience at ease. From the beginning of his career, especially his work on ER, Clooney has the ability to be commanding and comforting with only a few lines of dialogue. He makes you feel safe in the middle of this scary journey. There is a scene near the end of the film between the two stars that hits home in every possible facet. The writing, the contact between them and the length each have gone in this predicament. It’s one of the best scenes of Clooney’s career and one that he can hold up as a wonderful work of art. You will know it when you see it.
However, the film belongs to Bullock. It’s her odyssey. From the moment the movie starts and we see her wounded face carry more robot than blood flow, something is wrong there is a thorn sticking out of her side. When we finally learn her backstory and why she is broken hearted, the story kicks up another notch. The Cuaron’s know they don’t have to reinvent the way you develop character and plot threads here and add just enough punch to the story to make the situation carry a little drama as well as suspense. Gravity is all about the predicament and how you manage to get out of it alive but by placing two well known movie stars in the situation, they give us faces that we identify with and can relate to. This is a film where you need movie stars to carry the action but more importantly, you need actors who have skill and can act. Bullock and Clooney deliver in a huge way.
Cuaron’s direction is flawless. The film opens with a 13 minute uncut tracking shot that sets up the action and it’s a mesmerizing sequence. Cuaron shot the film in separate rigs and used a wide range of technology but you always see his hand on the trigger during every shot of the film. Used famously in Children of Men, Cuaron likes to set the camera up and let it go for a long uncut shot, making the experience all the more invigorating and spellbinding. Here, it works to perfection also dare I say for the first time the use of 3D glasses actually enhances the film and doesn’t distract from it.
Gravity is worth anyone’s time. For the casual film fan to the film-addict, this movie will grip you and not let go for hours after the film. 12 hours later, I am still thinking about it and it won’t leave anytime soon. This is while playoff baseball fills my senses. The movie is haunting, beautiful and poignant. It is one of the year’s best and so tightly edited and told that if you never get a chance to actually go up in space, Cuaron’s movie will get you close enough to feel the adrenaline and despair. It is the best movie about life in space that I have ever seen.
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