IN TWEET: DID YOU EVER HAVE ONE OF THOSE DAYS?
Let’s get this out of the way right here at the top: GRAVITY is the best movie I’ve seen this year. It’s a film that exceeds already lofty expectations and reminds you, in the hands of a truly gifted director, that there are still untapped wonders to behold on the big screen. Yes, GRAVITY is that good.
For those who leap to assumptions: no, you have not seen all of the best stuff in the trailers. The savvy marketing campaign only hints at the tip of a massive Murphy’s Law “iceberg” set in space. Things start out all ooh aah pretty and then go downhill fast…before getting even worse. GRAVITY is as terrifying as it is awe inspiring. After 90 thrilling, white-knuckle minutes, my lifelong fantasy of going into space is officially kaput.
Without giving too much away, Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a biomedical engineer on her first shuttle mission. She’s working on the Hubble Space Telescope under the watchful eye of commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), an experienced astronaut on his last trip to space. A screwed up attempt by the Russians to destroy one of their spy satellites results in a hellish chain reaction of deadly debris that turns a routine expedition into a harrowing fight for survival. Not only are Stone and Kowalski free floating miles above earth, communication satellites have been knocked out so, indeed, they are all alone.
Much has been made about the opening 15 minutes of the film. That’s good, because it’s only the warm up for a series of progressively more jaw dropping sequences of zero gravity terror. It’s a given that the visual effects are without peer. What really blew me away, however, is the way director Alfonso Cuarón keeps the focus on his actors with some of the most brilliant camera work I’ve seen in years. He pulls back at the moments when perspective is required but, more often than not, opts for intimate, often claustrophobic angles that make you feel as isolated and disoriented as the characters. The near perfect orchestration of digital wizardry and directorial prowess is astounding. I’ve never seen anything like it on the big screen.
Yes, Clooney turns in another strong performance but this is really Bullock’s movie. She’s our surrogate on screen and you are with her every step of the way (even in those moments when you have to avert your eyes because the tension is so unbearable). It’s a role that a less confident actor would screw up with lots of scenery chewing. Cuarón never misses a beat with the two-person cast and Bullock is equally pitch-perfect throughout. The scene where she cries zero gravity tears is one of the most profound and heartbreaking movie moments of the past five years. If she doesn’t get another Oscar nod, someone better cry foul.
It’s a testimony to the talents of all involved that you really have no idea how things will ultimately turn out. The stakes are high and at no point do you ever feel that anyone on screen is safe. GRAVITY is an epic journey that soars but also one that reminds us of the strength of the human spirit. It’s a message that has never been more timely or inspiring.
NOTE: I saw GRAVITY in IMAX 3D and cannot say enough good things about the format. I walked out of the theatre a sweaty mess. Be warned: if you are prone to motion sickness, you may want to stick to a 2D screening.
RONTHINK GRADE: A+