I don’t often get to the movies on opening night, so this review is a treat. Honestly, with the hype surrounding ‘Gravity’ there was no way I could avoid seeing it tonight; I was being compelled by forces beyond my control.
Sometimes it is hard to separate your true feelings for a film and the bountiful opinions of other, more vocal critics. Walking into ‘Gravity’, I was nearly set up for sheer disappointment. The buzz surrounding the film and the near unanimous raves for it made it appear to be one of those overhyped gargantuan films that leave the viewer with nowhere to go but down. That was my biggest fear tonight, that I was going to wind up feeling betrayed by the early ink and ultimately have my theater experience dampened.
‘Gravity’ does not disappoint.
I don’t really know where to start, or even how to construct this review at all. There is hardly anyway to spoil the film for someone who hasn’t seen it. The only real question that one will have walking in is whether or not Sandra Bullock’s character dies, and I’m not about to reveal that answer, but outside of that there isn’t anything I can say that will lessen the impact of the film itself. The fact remains that this film is a thrill ride from start to finish and that it uses the most of every single frame in play, milking each scene for optimum effect. The plot is simple. Debris from an accidental missile attack sends waves of danger to a group of astronauts and essentially causes a lot of issues for the initial impacts sole survivor, Doctor Ryan Stone. This initial wave of debris hits about ten minutes into the movie and from that point forward, the impact is felt. It ripples from frame to frame, scene to scene, like the monstrous approach of a tsunami.
My hand hurts, because my wife was squeezing it for the entire ninety minutes.
Heaps of praise have been shovels upon the film’s director, Alfonso Cuaron, and the star, Sandra Bullock, and that praise is deserved one-hundred fold. Cuaron is a visionary director, one that understands the fabric of film and how to present it in a way that transports you. I saw this in ‘Children of Men’, and he does it again here, to possibly even greater effect. Every aspect of this movie is presented in a way that entices the senses. From the remarkable imagery (the way that empty space is captured here is breathtaking) to the effective use of sound (and lack thereof), ‘Gravity’ completely takes over your body.
It lives in you.
In all honesty, I left the theater feeling like my senses had been heightened. Sound was much crisper and the air around me was much clearer. It affected me physically, which is something I never expected.
My hat truly goes off to Sandra Bullock though. Without her dedicated performance, this film would have failed miserably. As much as this is about the technical aspect of things, and as much as this is Cuaron’s movie, Bullock had a lot on her shoulders, and she makes this movie so incredibly human and intimate despite the grandeur of it all. From an outside perspective, it may appear that she has nothing to do but panic (and she does a lot of that), but she slowly yet surely develops a beautifully fleshed out character who embodies the core themes of this film; namely the very will to survive. Her solemn confession about her daughter paints a dark picture almost upfront, but she chips away at that density the reveal a woman renewed by her bleak circumstances to find the will to live again. The film uses her (and she in turn uses to film) to completely flip the direness of it all on its head to unveil an uplifted spirit and delivers to the audience one of the most engrossing tales of internal and external survival I’ve ever seen put to film.
Many critics have already heralded this as a masterpiece. This year is so rich already, and I’ve only seen a handful of films, but I won’t hesitate to thrust that label on this film. It truly is a marvelous piece of art, and it is easily the best film I’ve seen so far this year. The great thing about ‘Gravity’ is that it isn’t just a masterpiece in a singular aspect, but from every angle this film is nearly perfect.
As many prognosticators have been predicting since the reviews started to trickle in, and since I’ve been saying since April, Oscar is going to gobble this film up, and rightfully so. After seeing it though, I can actually see this not only being nominated across the board, but actually winning more than a few techs. I think that this has the Visual Effects, Sound (both categories) and Score Oscars locked up at the moment. That score is so essential to the atmosphere of the film, and Price delivers in spades so the win should be in the bag. Cinematography could also happen, but backlash over rewarding ‘Life of Pi’ last year for basically more visual effects may sway voters in another direction. I initially balked at an Editing nomination or win, but this film is so brisk and direct that it could contend there as well. But, even more than that, I see this film being a major threat in top tier categories. Blanchett may have a stronghold on Lead Actress at the moment, but Bullock is no joke, and if her film garners enough momentum in the end she could easily win. With the only real threats in Best Picture and Director being ’12 Years a Slave’ and the unseen ‘American Hustle’, I could see Cuaron and his film taking it in the end. This film has a presence that is unforgettable, and if ’12 Years a Slave’ is seen as too controversial or ‘rough’ for Oscar voters, then this is where they may place their bets. Sure, one could argue that AMPAS rarely goes for sci-fi, but this is NOT your typical sci-fi film.