Anthony's Film Review

Gravity (2013)

As an eye-popping suspense thriller, Gravity pulls you in without letting you go...

Gravity is perhaps the only science-fiction film besides 2001: A Space Odyssey that truly recreates or realistic simulates the experience of being in space. Many films taking place in space are impressive visually, yet we know deep down that the special effects are not real. With Gravity, the special effects are so impressive that it might be easy to forget that they are only special effects. I am even going as far to say that anyone who wants to know what it's like to be in a zero-gravity environment outside the Earth's atmosphere should watch this movie. Yes, I'm saying it even if Gravity is a disaster movie.

Consider what happens when the movie begins. Three astronauts, including Ryan Stone (played by Sandra Bullock), Matt Kowalski (played by George Clooney), and an astronaut named Shariff (a brief character voiced by Phaldut Sharma), are doing work in and around their space shuttle floating above Earth. The sight of these astronauts maneuvering around while tethered and using tools carefully is impressive because it looks incredibly real. In just a few minutes, we in the audience are pulled into the same zero-gravity environment. By then, we experience the fear that the characters feel when they are given warning about destruction of satellites that results in space debris coming their way. And when that debris comes and hits the shuttle, we cannot turn away from the images of the astronauts getting separated and on the brink of death.

Let me describe further why this scene is unforgettable. The camera shot is continuous from the first glimpse of planet Earth to the image of Ryan Stone spinning and floating away towards outer space. I am NOT kidding. Roughly the first ten minutes of the movie is presented without any camera cutaways, as if there is a cameraman who is up in space with these characters and is letting the camera run continuously while moving from one part of the environment to the next and taking in everything that is happening. Even the sudden transition from routine space work to an emergency situation is shown without jumps in camera shots. This camera technique is so effective in making this film as gripping as it is.

You can expect to see this throughout much of the rest of the film. The more time you see something continuously on screen, the more you feel like you are part of the action (especially if you watch it in 3D on a giant screen). Also, you never know what might happen next, because the things that are off-screen might not appear until the characters get close to them. For example, Stone and Kowalski may be floating in space and trying to make their way to the International Space Station, and even as they get close, there is still the possibility of painful collisions with parts of the station that we may not expect until it's just about to happen. As you can see, it is not easy to be an astronaut.

So far, I really did not talk about the plot and characters, and there's a reason for that: they're minimal. There is nothing more to the story other than the effort to safely make it home, and we learn almost nothing about the personal lives of Stone and Kowalski. While I always love movies that have well-developed plotlines and characters, I am totally fine with having none of that in this movie, especially when survival is the only thing that is on our minds. Besides, the special effects and visual presentation make up for it. I will say, though, that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play their roles well, because it's interesting to see the former be disoriented by the disaster and the latter keep cool even in the face of it.

Gravity is a great example of a movie that is 90 minutes long but makes full use of its running time. It shows that, even with almost no plot and a very small cast list (the Internet Movie Database lists only two on-screen actors and six other actors providing only voices), a great film can excel by developing one element well. Director Alfonso Cuarón can definitely be proud of Gravity, and I certainly can say that this movie is one of his best. It's a film that provides great breathtaking cinematography, not to mention a greater appreciation for what it's like to be up there in space.

Anthony's Rating:

For more information about Gravity, visit the Internet Movie Database.


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