Sunday, October 6, 2013

Review: Gravity

Note: Elessar, for once in his life, saw this movie in both IMAX and 3D. While his psychic powers informs him that he’s going to recommend it, he is loath to recommend different formats. However, if you get the chance, the 3D really is worth it this time and IMAX makes it brain-shreddingly intense. So if you have the chance, it really is the way to see it.

Well I didn’t need my brain for anything anyway.

Gravity is one of those rare movies that manages to unite critics and regular audiences with how great it is (see also: Inception). Directed by Alfonso Cuaron, who previously directed the genuinely great Children of Men, it’s a tightly made, incredibly intense thriller, basically a single 90 minute long action sequence. It’s got audiences along for one of the most intense rides of the year, and it’s got critics admiring the skill with which it’s put together. So while I have to try and drag my review of it out for an entire page, all you need to do is go see it.

The plot is about two astronauts, Bryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who are up on Kowalski’s last space walk to…repair the Hubble Telescope I think. Anyway, the Russians decide to decommission one of their satellites via missile and the debris creates a chain reaction that untethers them and shuts down communications with NASA. Without a shuttle or any way of contacting Earth, they must rig a way to get home.

So that’s the setup. Matt is the cool collected veteran, Bryan is the newcomer with the tragic backstory, who’s up there to escape the world, everybody else is cannon fodder. The plot, on the surface, isn’t about much else than that. But that it does have is Alfonso Cuaron directing and he turns out to be a master at this. The action is intense to the point mind breaking and pretty much non-stop, with a lot of attention to making it adhere strictly to the rules of space, that a lot of movies ignore. And, with CGI and green screen in full effect, Cuaron’s preference for long, unbroken shots can come into full effect (you’ll see what I mean…essentially from the first shot). It’s overall one of the best directed films I’ve seen all year, with incredible editing and gorgeous CGI.

While the screenplay is nothing exceptional (and is indeed one of the film’s weaker aspects) it certainly gets the job done, and even manages to be a little deeper than you might expect a movie with such a simple storyline to be. The characters are arch enough to nearly be clichés, but are elevated by their actors into something special. Clooney is exactly as good as you’d expect him to be playing someone who is exactly as calm and cool discussing his impending retirement as he is facing down an explosion. But the surprise performance comes from Bullock. I’ve never really liked her much as an actress, but she throws herself into this role with a commitment I’ve not seen from her before. There are multiple scenes in the movie she has to hold up all on her own, basically by talking to herself.  It’s honestly the best performance of her career and it kind of irritates me that she already got her Oscar for The Blind Side (which I…let’s say ‘intensely disliked’).

Ultimately the intense action scenes, the brilliant direction and the great acting are more than enough to overcome the occasional weak screenplay. And even more ultimately, I can’t really find anything else to say about it. The good elements are incredible, but also almost impossible to discuss in text. You’d have to experience them yourself to understand. The bottom line is that Gravity is one of the best films of the year and the best thing you can see in theaters right now. Do not miss this movie.

Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he chooses to believe the Soyuz in this movie is the same one used in Y: The Last Man.

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