[Movie Review] Must-See 'Gravity' Takes Fear to New Heights
Gravity is this year’s must-see movie event, an epic groundbreaking cinematic experience that takes you into the cold darkness of outer space in ways that no other film has ever attempted, succeeding masterfully in creating a terrifyingly jolting adventure that will and should haunt you long after you see it.
On the surface, it is the story of a medical engineer on her first space mission who gets separated from her crew and shuttle when an unexpected disaster strikes, knocking out all communication with Earth; but of course Gravity is also about much deeper universal themes of humanity and of the will to fight and go on living even in the face of unimaginable tragedy.
Sandra Bullock gives the performance of her career as Dr. Ryan Stone, who is already feeling queasy as she slowly drifts into sight and sound in the movie’s opening minutes.
At first, her shuttle is nothing but a tiny white speck in the bottom corner of the screen, but as it drifts ever closer and eventually out of the screen in just one of many genius uses of 3D technology employed to stellar effect in Gravity, the scene becomes clear.
Stone is hard at work fixing whatever it is she was sent up there to do, while her veteran astronaut escort Mat Kowalski joyfully flies around the shuttle in a small powered chair that can propel itself through space for short distances.
Just as viewers are adjusting to director Alfonso Curon’s endlessly fluid, floating cinematography and the 3D encapsulation into the film that it creates, we hear word of a destroyed satellite, the debris from which is rushing toward Stone and Kowalski destroying everything in its orbit.
What happens next is the most engaging action sequence of the year, kickstarting the film and announcing firmly in the first 10 minutes that this is a space movie unlike anything you have seen in theaters before.
George Clooney is great as Kowalski, a live action Buzz Lightyear, but it’s Bullock’s movie. She will most certainly be nominated for the Best Actress Oscar this year, and I hope she wins.
Aside from the behind-the-scenes demands of performing on a soundstage while innovative new camera and lighting systems weighing tons swung endlessly around her to simulate drifting through space, Bullock manages to let us inside her character’s desperate fight for survival, to the point that I was constantly gasping for air while watching the movie.
Facing the toughest challenge imaginable, we are half-expecting, even okay with, this “every woman” succumbing to that which she cannot overcome, because the odds are just that much against her, and yet we can’t stop hoping that she somehow makes it back home. Despite the odds, we cannot let go of the hope that Stone will somehow survive, and neither can the character.
With every vital, oxygen-depleting second that passes, we are pulling for her just a little bit more, until the entire audience is effectively lost in space right there with Bullock by the heart-stopping final act.
Director Alfonso Curon (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) had to create new ways of filming in order to complete his vision, and it is evident throughout.
Gravity defies the looks and most specifically the usually deafening sounds of what we have come to expect space to be like, effectively making it so much scarier than we could have ever imagined until now, not because of evil aliens waiting to kill us, but rather the simple awesome endlessness of nature beyond our comprehension.
While Bullock is adrift in space, fighting with every breath just to get back home, the film echoes the daily humanistic struggle of our species to face the challenges given us every day and to somehow find the inner strength to just carry on and live.
I said earlier this summer in my review of The Conjuring that it was “easily the scariest movie the year”, but Gravity has changed my mind, taking real fear to horrifying to new heights, and using every piece of movie-making technology available to give viewers one hell of a relentless roller coaster ride.
Gravity may be the heaviest movie of the year, but it is definitely one of the best.
Official Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Reviewed by: Matt Artz
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Gravity (rated PG13) is now playing at The Pioneer Theatre in Manteo, this week through November 7 with an 8pm showtime nightly, and at R/C KDH Movies 10 in Kill Devil Hills.