With apologies, if you didn’t see Gravity (2013) in the movie theaters, you made a mistake. Yes, television screens continue to grow larger and sound in your home continues to get better and 3D can look pretty good, but the experience of watching Gravity is certainly better on the big screen than the small.
Now that I’ve said all that, wipe it out of your minds, because whether you see it on the big screen or the small, the following fact will remain – Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is a brilliant cinematic achievement. It is a movie so well conceived, so well directed, so well produced, so well acted, that you will actually forget that they didn’t go to space to film it.
When you see a cameraman reflected in the visor of astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), you will think they simply weren’t clever enough in their camera placement (if you notice it in the first place), not that obviously there was no cameraman with Clooney and Sandra Bullock in space because Clooney and Bullock were never actually in space. It is that good a movie, it is that astounding, it is that enjoyable.
The story opens with Kowalski and Ryan Stone (Bullock) finishing a job on the Hubble telescope and running into trouble when the debris from a Russian satellite causes a chain reaction resulting in damage to their ship. The majority of the movie then follows their quest to return to Earth any way they can.
As has been well publicized, some scientists in the know (like Neil deGrasse Tyson) will tell you that the physics of it all aren’t quite right. Thankfully though, Gravity is a fictional tale and the physics need not be quite right for the movie to remain exceptionally enjoyable. If this were a documentary, naturally, such things would be devastating, but if you’re not a scientist, I just don’t think those elements will prove troublesome.
What will, no doubt, be upsetting however, are the trials and tribulations of Stone and Kowalski on their voyage. Not since Alien has space been so terrifying. And, unlike that horror film, this one is based on seemingly all-too-real a set of circumstances.
Clooney and Bullock both deliver excellent performances, conveying the wonder and potential terror of space. I wouldn’t say that they are subservient to Cuarón’s work on the technical end of things, but Gravity is a movie where the technical prowess exhibited is so great that it is simply impossible to discuss the movie and the performances without talking about the technical end of things.
As is explained the behind the scenes documentaries, what they did was to take language of video/film shot in space of which we are already aware and apply that to the fictional film. This means the use of long, single shots with little cutting between them. Again, as pointed out in the behind the scenes footage, the footage of the flag being planted on the moon is not full of cutaways and close-ups on faces and emotions, but rather a single shot.
The featurettes also delve into all the CGI work and rehearsals and research and everything else that went into making the movie. If you were someone who saw the film in theaters and thought to yourself, “My god, how did they do that,” you will be happy to know that the Blu-ray release delivers all the answers over the course of several hours worth of bonus features… features that are just as interesting and just as impressive as the movie itself.
If it seems that I am high on Gravity, it is because I am. It is a movie which may sound relatively run-of-the-mill if you’re trying to describe it to someone – “Oh, these two astronauts have to find a way home after their ship is crippled.” You may, as I have done here, do something akin to a “No, you don’t understand, you’re going to think they’re actually up there in space.” And, even if you make a living writing words down on a piece of paper, end up going for a “Trust me, you have to see this movie.”
And, that is what I’m going to say about it here – you have to see this movie. It is filmmaking at its finest, the perfect combination of story, acting, and technique. They all come together in such a way as to make them all invisible, and the movie just is.
While, as I said above, the experience of watching it at home isn’t quite as good as watching it in the theaters, that is due to screen size and none of the technical aspects of the release. The movie both looks and sounds incredible here, with the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offering everything it should and nothing it shouldn’t. Because, in case I haven’t touched on it yet, the sound design too is a wonder.
Gravity is nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and they encompass the full range of filmmaking from visual effects and sound editing and mixing to original score to directing to cinematography to acting to best picture. Whether or not it wins those awards, there is a strong case to be made that it deserves each and every one.
Forget any regret you may have about not seeing the movie in the theaters, if you haven’t seen it yet, you’re doing yourself a true disservice. It may not just be the best movie this year, it may be the best movie for several years.