Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts stranded in space in the new sci-fi thriller Gravity! But is Alfonso Cuaron's latest film a a big hit or a failure? 411's Jeffrey Harris checks in with his full review!
Directed By: Alfonso Cuaron Written By: Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron Runtime: 90 minutes MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Ryan Stone - Sandra Bullock Matt Kowalski - George Clooney Shariff - Paul Sharma Mission Control - Ed Harris (voice)
Space is a dangerous place, and itís depicted as more dangerous and deadly than ever before in the dramatic, sci-fi thriller, Gravity. The latest film from Alfonso Cuaron is sure to be a heavy favorite for the coming award season, highlighted by a compelling performance by the filmís lead, Sandra Bullock.
Cuaron directs from a script he co-wrote with his father, Jonas. Bullock is a newly-minted astronaut brought along as a tech specialist to repair the Hubble telescope. Leading the mission is the hotshot veteran space traveler, Matt Kowalski (Clooney). Soon, things go badly as the shuttle mission runs smack dab into a devastating debris field. The debris leaves Stone and Kowalski stranded in orbit with barely any oxygen left and their only possibility of the damaged International Space Station. However, Stone has to overcome a tragedy from her own past to keep herself from going over the edge into the abyss.
Where Cuaron really shines here is ambience. He constructs shots and atmosphere impressively well. Part of the opening sequence is done in one long shot. The shot likely took complex and elaborate work to finish, and it is a stunning feat to view. The composition of his shots and takes resembled 2001: A Space Odyssey. Cuaron builds up a serene, almost calm atmosphere in space. Everything seems routine, and in a way, strangely beautiful. Then like a flash, everything goes to hell. The transition from OK to all hell breaking loose so quickly is striking. What takes place after is remarkably far-fetched, but it wouldn't be dramatic then, would it?
There is another impressive sequence in the middle of the movie that is shot from a first-person perspective. Itís a really cool moment and it was reminiscent of playing through a cinematic moment of a high-end, first-person shooter like Bioshock or Dead Space (well, if Dead Space was in first-person). The first-person shots in this movie, including the ones that put you inside the helmets of the astronauts, were really well done; and itís not something Cuaron shies away from at all.
Steven Priceís score is very minimal, and gets a lot out of using only a few effective notes. The sound design mixed with the score is extremely jarring. The biggest accomplishment of this film is that the atmosphere really strikes you to the core and almost makes you feel like you are stuck in the vacuum of space along with Stone and Kowalski, with nowhere to go.
I did see this movie on first viewing in 3D. The 3D effects didn't particularly grab me or stand out. I was not surprised to learn the movie was post-converted to 3D. Itís an obvious difference. The film appeared to still be suitably immersive despite the rather flat disappointment of the 3D visuals. Unfortunately, 3D conversion is an obsession of which Hollywood refuses to let go.
The performances by Bullock and Clooney were solid. Clooney is a big star; no doubt, this film is unquestionably Bullockís show and her next play for an Oscar. The writing for the characters was a little cliche and unbelievable at times. At one point, the movie takes a grab from WALL*E, which I found rather ridiculous considering who was performing action; but thatís a nitpick more than anything.
The 411: Gravity is an incredibly well-shot and constructed movie that will likely make you think twice about becoming an astronaut. The film builds a pulse-pounding and exciting atmosphere. Cuaron's direction is better than ever. The film has a couple of inexplicable and rather predictable moments, but that doesn't take away from an overall compelling experience.