Movie Review: Gravity

9 Oct


This movie is so good that I’m afraid to watch it again lest I start to notice flaws the second time.

This is the first movie I’ve seen in a long time that I have nothing to say negative about it.   Even movies that I think are good generally have a few bits that are iffy, but Gravity doesn’t.  In fact, the only criticism I’ve seen having to do with this film is how several of the events are not scientifically accurate, which to me is no big deal because what movie ever is scientifically accurate?  (I’d like to have those scientifically accurate critics watch something like Star Wars, god their heads would spin over that.)

I’m not going to do spoilers for this one, because the mystery is part of it.  However I’m going to say what I think this film did right.

1)  The story comes straight from the characters:  Sandra Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a doctor on her first space flight, George Clooney plays Matt Kowalski–a veteran astronaut on his last flight.     Rather than just take these two characters and have stuff happen to them (which is almost every other movie out there), the story happens in part because of the characters–the tension between the individuals and their environment IS the story.  What’s most interesting is Clooney and Bullock start out as their stock characters—Bullock is basically the woman from Speed, and Clooney is basically George Clooney, but as disaster after disaster happens, we see those facades fall off, and find what the people are underneath.   This is the biggest part of the characters that wows me–they act like regular people.

2)  The effects are so good that you don’t notice them:    Every scene will pop your eyes out, and it doesn’t matter if you see the 3d version or the flat one, it’s the same, the movie just looks fantastic.  However it’s also inobtrusive–a lot of action flicks have a tendency to wear their effects on their sleeves, and it can be a real distraction–just as the plot should come from the characters, the action should come from the plot–we don’t need things just shoehorned in to give the audience a buggy ride.   Also, there’s a huge tendency to make things in movies larger than life.  It actually has a deadening effect on the audience, because it emphasizes how not real the movie is.   Gravity does not do this.   

3)  Gravity is not afraid to have quiet moments.   That’s one big criticism about mainstream movies lately–they’re so concerned about having stuff happen all the time that it all falls flat.  One cannot have a whole 120 minute movie be one long climax from beginning to end–it just gets exhausting.  Gravity has the buildup and release.

4)  Gravity is not insulting to the audience’s intelligence.   Nor is it fake-smart like Inception.

5)   The score is menacingly gorgeous    I’ve never thought the sounds of jet engines and beeping could be so beautiful.   Like everything else in this movie, the music rises and falls, as a part of the whole affair.

6)   Clooney and Bullock act the hell out of this one.   Even more amazing because for a good bit of this movie you only see the parts of their faces that a spacesuit would show.   There is a solidness beneath them.  Bullock in particular amazes me here, like she dug deep and found something new just for this film.

7)   Wins and Losses are earned. Rather than just given.   Who wins and who loses isn’t always fair, but these characters have got to fight for everything they’ve got.    The audience really feels what the characters are doing.

8)  Gravity rewards close watching, but does not bang the audience over the head with obvious symbolism or preaching.   In fact the biggest message is the resilience of the human spirit.

9)  I really felt changed by this film.  This is completely subjective, but the film brought forth ideas that felt new and resonant.   This isn’t movie-by-the-numbers.  Nor is this a movie that is impressed by its own smartness.  Gravity focuses squarely on the audience and never lets up.

10)  Cuaron is a genius.  He produced, directed, and edited this movie.  This movie could have so easily been terrible, and that’s the most impressive part–when the elements are so minimalistic, they have to be nearly perfect to hold up.  Gravity is so close to perfect that it’s nearly terrifying.

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