"Clear skies ... with a chance of satellite debris ..." - Dr. Ryan Stone
It’s Dr. Ryan Stone’s first shuttle mission—and Matt Kowalski’s last—when a missile launch causes a chain reaction, turning all of Earth’s satellites into speeding-bullet shrapnel. This leaves the two surviving astronauts adrift in space with no communications and little oxygen left. Ryan is ready to throw in the towel, for she is as alone in space as she would be on Earth. Matt won’t stand for it, so he does everything in his power to help Ryan find her will to keep living. Their only hope lies in the escape pods of abandoned stations—before the debris makes another pass.
Being a lover of space, this is the kind of film I’ve always wanted to see. The big question, however, was if Hollywood could pull this off. They’ve given space their best shot through the years, but every entry seemed too reliant on blockbuster formulas for me to drop my suspension of disbelief. Not this time. With the help of Cuarón and son’s combined screenwriting, Gravity has an entirely new formula. From the first, mesmerizing view of Earth to the heart-stopping conclusion, Gravity will make anyone feel like an astronaut.
And they will certainly come to fear what they fear.
The nod to 2001: A Space Odyssey was an especially nice touch.
The duration of this 91 minute film is mostly, if not entirely, made up of radio communications. Any sound effect you hear is what the characters hear through the vibrations of their suits. Never has 91 minutes felt so long! And is this film worth seeing in 3D? Roger that! Unlike other post-conversion productions, this film clearly had 3D in mind for its audience, and it actually does help with the immersion process. Add a subtle, magnificent score that plays only when it needs to and you have an experience that’s waiting to be had—quiet when the view is enough and edge-of-your-seat suspenseful during a deadly game of tug-of-war with an exploding space station.
Brilliant sound editing and game-changing special effects aside, my only rift with the film is the mechanics used in supplying empathy for Ryan, our lead role. We’re made to feel sorry for her from the get-go, yet the reason isn’t particularly clear, and her brief back story is given at tiny increments throughout the film, as if the subject is heavy enough to carry the story along. Then again, this story is about being stranded in space. Not much of a story, but it compensates itself with long shots and few scene cuts, making the story pan out like it’s happening in real time.
I’ve said elsewhere that Ender’s Game could be the first sci-fi film in years to draw major Oscar attention—I take that back. Gravity is about as near perfect as a film gets, and it reminds us of why we go to the movies in the first place. Clooney and Bullock make a fantastic pair in a film that has already reached the highest star of Cuarón’s filmography and one of the best of the year. Gravity is my first “must see” of 2013, and I’m sure it will be remembered come Oscar time.
Cosmic Cruller Rating:
* * *
What's your favorite space movie? Thinking of going to see Gravity? I promise you'll survive the experience ... no really, I promise!
I'm David, and "I have a bad feeling about this mission."