Monday, October 7, 2013

Gravity ~ Review of Sandra Bullock's Impressive Performance In Free Fall

"I have a bad feeling about this mission."
What? No aliens? No sleek spaceships, no impressive CGI effects? So, what is going on with Alphonso Curon's new film, "Gravity?" Knowing what to expect going in to "Gravity" is just as important for the health of your enjoyment of this breath taking film. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as the survivors of the doomed shuttle STS-157 - Explorer. "Gravity" is a sharp hour and a half long and is rated PG-13.
Alfonso Cuarón and his son Jonás wrote a script that puts the viewer in the silence, and the beauty of space. They wrote a very scientific, yet decidedly poignant view of the world from a perspective that Science Fiction has ignored for quite some time. The last time we saw something of this nature was in Ron Howard's "Apollo 13," the story of the doomed mission to the moon. The big difference in this film is that Cuarón allows the audience to focus on one character and expend their emotion and their care for that one character.
Starting with the title card for the film and its impressive, loud, and ominous opening score, which suddenly cuts quickly to absolute silence? The audience is left with the giant and beautiful big blue Earth floating in the background. There is a beauty in the silence that the audience begins to fall for, when the sounds of Country Music and George Clooney's dialog with Houston's Mission Control (Ed Harris) breaks the silence. Strapped to a jetpack, Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (Clooney) zips around the shuttlecraft while bantering with the folks on the ground in Texas. Mission Specialist, Dr Ryan Stone, is strapped to a long mechanical arm that keeps her in position while making repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope. Mission Specialist Shariff, tethered to the Explorer, is taking pleasure in his time in space. Kowalski tells stories of past space missions and of his ex-wife on Earth. Cuarón sets the mood as light and casual, until the emergency notification comes through that debris from a Russian satellite is heading their way. 



The roller coaster ride begins. Tumbling through space, the battle for survival, and the camera focuses on Ryan Stone (Bullock) exclusively. Any shots of Clooney from here on out are limited medium shots. Fear, claustrophobia, and vertigo rein as Stone's oxygen level drop as she hyperventilates. With a sense of realism of what space flight is today, "Gravity" is not like "Star Trek" where your main characters don't die unless they are wearing a red shirt. In "Gravity,” every character is fair game. The lesson in physics we get from this film is amazing as well. In showing us this, Cuarón floats the camera effortlessly around taking long passes with the focus on Bullock as she fights her way from one hope to another. Shots like this are reminiscent of Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" but that reference is just too obvious. What Cuarón does is better, is that he brings the audience into Ryan Stone's spacesuit, and we enjoy the stomach-wrenching ride with her. Story-wise the script is straight forward, like a wreck at sea where the survivor struggle from one life raft to another. The timing and pacing in the film is just right as we learn and identify more about the character of Ryan Stone as we join her as she navigates a Soyuz spacecraft from the destroyed International Space Station (IIS) to the Chinese space station.



Sandra Bullock is excellent as she portrays a women dealing with the idea of death and a reason to live. Many of us face this question on a day-to-day basis; not a space catastrophe, but the basic question of why are we here. She handles these questions with a believability that resonates with the audience. I didn't like Bullock's character in this summer's "The Heat." But, her struggle and the emotion she displays in her fight to survive in this film are epic.
I liked "Gravity" very much and I think that most of you will, if you get past the lack of aliens and sleek spaceships. 2013 was such a weird year for Sci-Fi films. We started the year off with Tom Cruise's "Oblivion," the Smith family's poorly received offering "After Earth," the spectacle that was "Iron Man 3." Then we had JJ Abram's dark sequel "StarTrek Into Darkness" and the smart but slow burning "Europa Report," and then finally, the shiny headed Matt Damon in Neill Blomkamp's socially charged "Elysium." Many of these films did well at the box office, but not with critics. Others did well with the critics but not with the public. Critics usually slammed genre films heavily, and some folks never got the chance to see a film due to low RT scores this is one film where I think most everyone will agree on. I think you will also enjoy the 90 minutes of Sandra Bullock and her battle to survive the lack of elements that is the vacuum of space.

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Genre: Sci-Fi, Thriller
Year:  2013
Staring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón 
Producer(s): Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman
Writer: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date:  10/4/2013