by Coop Cooper
A purely original cinematic experience is exceedingly rare these days. Even the best movies can feel like a (well-done) rehash of old ideas no matter how fresh the packaging is. A great cop movie is essentially the same cop movie you’ve always seen, only with excellent performances, dialogue, script, etc… Never before have I seen a film the likes of “Gravity.”
The setup is simple: Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and rookie Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) take a routine spacewalk from their space shuttle to repair/upgrade the Hubble telescope. Nearby, the Russian government destroys one of their own satellites, causing a chain reaction of destruction that causes space junk debris to destroy the shuttle, leaving Kowalski and Stone alone in their spacesuits and low on oxygen. Aided by Kowalski’s experimental jet pack, the two attempt to find an undamaged orbital sanctuary that will save their lives, but time is quickly running out and the destructive debris can strike with little warning.
I accurately predicted what would happen in the film based on the trailers and TV spots but I wasn’t prepared for how intensely or beautifully it would unfold. The special effects are something to behold, especially in 3-D which I normally hate, but it works amazingly here. Everything from the fear and quiet isolation to the big action/suspense scenes were expertly executed. Everything down to the smallest detail brings the audience into this world, so much so that it is jarring to emerge from it when the film ends. It’s one of the best cinematic experiences I’ve ever had and that is saying a great deal.
Bullock and Clooney pull off an enormous feet acting almost exclusively in a green screen environment with nothing to play off but each other and their own inner thoughts. Bullock may be up for another Oscar for ‘Best Actress’ with this one. Ironic since she was far from the first choice for this role with Natalie Portman and many other A-list actresses turning it down due to the challenging shooting conditions. I’m confident Bullock was ultimately the correct choice. I can’t imagine any of those other actresses pulling it off so well.
The real maestro of this cinematic experience is genius writer/director Alfonso Cuaron. Cutting his teeth on indie cinema the graduating to direct “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and then “The Children of Men,” this Mexican director started is an artsy maverick and shot up to the A-list within two feature films. With “Gravity” I think Cuaron has initiated himself into silver screen legend by doing the impossible and will one day be recognized for it. I can’t wait to see what he will do next.
One interesting aspect about this film is how its only real ecological/political statement is how humans have added so much junk to the orbital path outside the Earth’s atmosphere, that travel into space might one day be too dangerous. It certainly is in the world of this film where the debris suddenly renders hundreds of satellites useless, disrupts communication and prompts the evacuation of the International Space Station and all other manned missions, probably ending all space programs for the foreseeable future. That sounds grim in reality but this film made me really think about it for the first time and how it could wreck the satellite TV, internet and GPS we all enjoy. Not to mention the idea of permanently benching our space program is a depressing thought.
See this movie and see it now in the theaters in 3-D before it is gone and you miss out on what all the fuss was about. Watching it on a small, inadequate screen in your home six months from now simply won’t have the same effect. This film is a lock for ‘Best Special Effects’ but I predict it will also win ‘Best Picture.’ If you are hesitant that this is a film about people floating in space in the dark and quiet, you’ll be shocked when the action happens and how frighteningly intense it can be. My highest recommendation and my favorite film of the year. I doubt anything can top it.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars