*** Spoiler-free review ***
Last night I saw the movie Gravity with my 11-year old daughter on a glorious IMAX screen in 3D. We left the theater completely amazed at what we had seen and rated our movie going experience as one of the best thus far. She initially did not want to see the movie, stating that she would wait for it on Blu-ray. Surprised a little bit about that remark (she is a movie-lover after all), I inquired a little further. Why wouldn’t she want to see this incredible movie (based on the trailer at least)?
She said that space “creeps her out.” The vastness of it all was a little uncomfortable for her. She equated it to the vast ocean. She said that she gets uncomfortable at just the thought of being under water in the deep ocean, getting murkier and murkier in the distance. As I listened to her I saw that she had a point: in so little words, It was the unknown that scared her. This deep fear is ingrained in all of us and has been the subject of so much of our entertainment in literature (and now movies) for hundreds of years. There’s so much we don’t know about our own ocean, let alone space.
That is why we explore, to discover the unknown. That is the human condition. Unfortunately, this quest for knowledge often brings us into incredibly dangerous situations and environments. Nothing is more perilous than space, where the movie’s first words warns us how no human can survive in such a hostile setting due to lack of air, extreme temperatures at both spectrums, and no gravity.
Space is not meant for humans to thrive in.
But we can survive it and we can mitigate its dangers with meticulous planning, multi-billion dollars worth of technology, human engineering and intelligence and above all, our enduring spirit to live. This entire movie is about survival despite horrific events in an environment that’s constantly trying to kill you at every second. Clearly this is a man vs. nature story with problem after problem piling on our characters throughout but about two thirds into the movie, it also presents the classic conflict of man vs. man. This movie was very well written.
Gravity stars Sandra Bullock as medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as astronaut Matt Kowalski. They float above Earth on a mission to repair some equipment that requires Dr. Stone’s expertise. Kowalski is the veteran astronaut guiding Stone on her first shuttle mission. He’s about to retire and this is his last mission. He’s cocky, charming and very experienced. Stone is a newly trained astronaut who’s nervous about being out in space but extremely intelligent. When a catastrophe occurs that destroys their shuttle, stranding them both in space, they are both tested to their limits as they race against time to survive the countless hazards and get back to Earth. The movie is directed and co-written by famed Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Great Expectations, Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter & the Prisoner of Azkaban and Children of Men). I’m predicting that he’ll win an Oscar for this movie. You read it here first folks.
Bullock and Clooney are the only two actors you’ll see on screen. Off screen you’ll hear other voices, one of them being Ed Harris as mission control (to my surprise afterward). They carry the entire movie with their brilliant performances. Sandra Bullock should be up for an Oscar as well. She dominates this movie and is simply superb (I always liked Sandra Bullock as so did my dearly departed friend, Andy who once worked in a hotel where she was staying at in NYC and cornered her in an elevator telling her how much he loved her). She expresses a wide range of emotions in the hour and a half she’s on screen. What’s great about her role (and the writing) is that she’s the proverbial fish out of water as so are we. She guides us through the experience and makes us feel every moment of despair, terror, confusion and hopelessness through her performance. When she’s running out of air, we’re gasping for breath. Whether she’s reaching out for that ever elusive handhold or that precious tether slipping through her gloved fingers, we’re gripping our seats in suspense. And when she’s trying to figure out the Russian or Chinese languages, we’re equally perplexed. I felt my daughter tense up many times through the movie (as so did I). This movie is very intense and it’s sheer brilliance how Mr. Cuarón accomplished this.
Mr. Cuarón spent four years making this movie and it’s a technical masterpiece. This is no hyperbole. I admired the long continuous shots Mr. Cuarón used, the constantly moving camera, the digital effects that drew me in and made me believe that I was out in space and the countless other visual effects that didn’t interfere or distracted me from the story. I’m still wondering how many of those effects were done and I know how most effects are done! Everything in this movie was so immersive. Filming it in IMAX format was the only way to go and I applaud this decision. Adding 3D to the mix just made it PERFECT. I’ve seen many 3D movies after Avatar kicked off the whole 3D phenomenon years ago but I firmly feel that THIS is the movie that truly uses the technology to its fullest, providing a fully immersive and believable experience. With its giant screen filling your whole view, we really did feel we were floating uncontrollably out into the void; a disconcerting feeling at times.
After the movie, my daughter and I talked about the various complications and problems the characters faced. It was great to see her so involved with this story and she thanked me for convincing her to see this movie. The IMAX format and 3D might throw some people off but the movie is well worth it. Tickets are expensive especially if you’re bringing the entire family but I assure you that it’s well worth it. If you wait for it to appear on the small screen or DVD, the experience will not be the same. Catch it on an IMAX screen before it’s gone.