Oct 07 2013
If you don’t see movies much at the theater any more, it’s hard to blame you. Between skyrocketing ticket prices, gimmicky 3D, 25 minutes of ads and trailers and a room full of people oblivious to the fact that they are in a room full of people, it’s not always the greatest experience. With most movies on Netflix (or able to be pirated) not long after release, there’s little reason not to just wait to watch in the comfort of your own home.
But go see Gravity. Go see it in the biggest, loudest, 3D-est theater you possibly can.
Director Alfonso Cuaron has made a movie that simply must be experienced in the theater, and though you’re welcome to catch it at home in a few months where an IMAX ticket doesn’t cost $18, you shouldn’t. You might miss one of the best movie theater experiences of your life.
Set in the vacuum of space outside the Earth’s atmosphere, Gravity has only two cast members, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as astronauts Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalski. With the rest of their unseen crew, they’re on a mission to attach one of Stone’s inventions to the Hubble telescope, and she’s still adjusting to her first time in space.
Unfortunately, their trip is soon cut short when debris from a Russian missile meant to destroy their own defunct spy satellite inadvertently creates a debris field of massive shrapnel that hurls toward them at blinding speeds. Their craft and the Hubble are shredded, and Stone finds herself tumbling through the depths of space. She and Kowalski must try to make their way to the thankfully nearby International Space Station to have any chance of surviving, though every ninety minutes, the orbiting debris field returns to wreak further havoc.
With Gravity, we’ve officially reached the point in filmmaking where my brain no longer process what I’m seeing onscreen. I know this is a movie, but I simply do not understand how it wasn’t actually filmed in space. The situation is so authentic, the very idea of a greenscreen never even crosses your mind. This is space. You are in space. It’s an achievement so significant that it’s little wonder the VFX team is listed before the cast in the credits.
The immersive effect is greatly amplified by seeing the film in IMAX 3D, words that have not come out of my mouth since Avatar. It’s the perfect format for the subject matter, and honestly, it’s the closest any of us will ever come to a spacewalk ourselves, at least until the technology improves on this already amazing experience.
But unlike Avatar, the film itself is beyond repute in terms of quality. Despite all its explosions and non-stop action, it’s an incredibly intelligent blockbuster. And I don’t just mean in the way something like Inception had you scratching your head for days. It’s a genuinely fascinating character drama as Bullock faces her own mortality, and the film has incredibly deep and powerful themes regarding the will to live and carry on after tragedy.
It’s the action that will leave you breathless throughout most of the movie, however. There are hardly more than a few moments where the astronauts aren’t in immediate and horrific danger, and the scenes where Bullock and Clooney desperately grasp at pieces of metal to avoid being flung out into the void might actually stop your heart once or twice.
Much of this is reminiscent of one of my favorite science fiction movies, Sunshine. Both had amazing visuals of space, both dealt with human error as the primary antagonist for much of the film. But Gravity ends up surpassing that film by delivering all the way through to the end, instead of introducing a bogeyman to move things along. It’s just humans vs. disaster far beyond their control, and it’s an exhilarating, astonishing, heart-wrenching ride.
Every aspect of the film is phenomenal. Gravity allows its audience to float in space along with its cast, while a haunting and thrilling score accompanies the vistas. Bullock in particular gives an amazing performance, and it’s hard to believe so many other actresses dropped out of this film before she took on the role. Like the voyage in the film, the movie seemed doomed as it kept losing potential cast members, but Cuaron’s final product is far and away the best movie of the year so far.
It’s hard to praise Gravity enough. It’s a movie that isn’t just good for what it is, it’s given us a reason to love movie theaters again. It’s more than a film, it’s an experience. Few movies can say that, and ones that do tend to rely on visuals alone. Gravity is the total package between its beauty, intelligence and emotion, and it’s a film I have to recommend to anyone and everyone.
5 out of 5 stars
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