It Will Drop Your Jaw

Gravity is a one-of-a-kind treat that is one of the few films to truly benefit from being seen in IMAX and in 3D.  Director Alfonso Cuaron has directed a film that genuinely deserves to be called epic, despite its minimal 90-minute runtime.

The entire film takes place in Earth’s orbit.  It’s technically science fiction, but it feels so real.  Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a medical engineer sent to space with minimal training so that she can install a piece of equipment she developed onto a satellite.  Accompanying her on her mission is veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney.  While she works, he tests out NASA’s new jetpack and recounts tales that those back at mission control back in Houston have heard one time too many already.

Bullock as Stone in GravityFor Dr. Stone, space is a peaceful place that offers her an escape from her life on Earth, where she continues to grieve the loss of her only daughter.  Her peaceful experience is rudely interrupted, however, when a Russian mission to destroy one of their own satellites results in hundreds of pieces of debris sent circling the Earth.  The debris strikes other satellites causing more debris, resulting in a catastrophic emergency.  When the debris strikes the shuttle transporting Dr. Stone and Kowalski, they are sent adrift in space.  From there, the movie thrillingly documents their desperate attempts to return home safely.

Watching the terrifically staged action in the film’s trailers, one would think that Cuaron and company could not possibly keep it up for the length of a full feature film.  Going in, I was certain the film must be filled with flashbacks to the characters’ lives on Earth or something, but instead I was treated to an endlessly breathtaking film that is one of most intense movie-going experiences I can remember.  The movie hardly lets up for a second as its characters are constantly in danger from the moment the debris first strikes to the movie’s thrilling final moments.

The film opens with a remarkable, extended single take as the camera floats around the shuttle and its crew, giving the audience the impression that they are right there with the characters, floating through space.  At times, the camera even pans directly into Dr. Stone’s helmet to give the audience a direct point-of-view shot, helping us to feel her horror as she spins helplessly through space. The movie is filled from wall to wall with these seemingly unedited sequences that keep the audience wrapped up in events and thus feeling the intensity all the more.

The special effects in this movie are some of the best ever put onto film.  The amount of work that must have gone into creating the gravity-less environment is staggering.  Every shot has something floating around the environment and none of it ever looks faked.  That also goes for the actors, who are constantly suspended in and floating throughout the environment.  Granted, most of the people who will see this movie have never actually experienced an anti-gravity environment, but everything we see in this movie sure appears to be the real deal.

As for those actors, they do spend most of their time reacting to what is going on around them—there’s also a lot of grunting and heavy breathing—but there are also moments that allow them to act instead of just react.  This is especially true in the case of Bullock, who is absolutely brilliant.  Although Clooney is certainly just as high-profile of an actor, make no mistake that, as far as the actors go, this is Bullock’s film.  Blended into the intense action is her character’s journey of rebirth.  Following the death of her daughter, she had basically given up on living life, but now she finds herself having to continue fighting just to live, both literally and figuratively.  Bullock is amazing, not only in her ability to convince the audience that this really happening to her character, but for emotionally drawing us into her character despite having so few quiet opportunities to do so.

Gravity is a movie that should be experienced by everyone and not at home, no matter how big your television screen.  This is a cinematic experience unlike any other and it must be experienced to be believed.

Gravity is rated PG-13 for “intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.”  This movie is definitely too scary for younger viewers and there are two disturbing images that certainly stick in my memory, but there’s nothing overly objectionable about the content.

Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Gravity.