Movie Review: GRAVITY

GRAVITY

Movie awards season is finally here, which means the studios are holding screenings all over town, pushing their contenders for the Oscars and the plethora of other awards. This week I went to two screenings, the first being Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (out Oct. 4), starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Within the first twenty minutes, it was clear to me I was watching a 2013 Best Picture nominee, if not the winner. Every once in a while, a movie comes along that makes me wide-eyed and agape, wondering, “How did they do that?” It’s happened only a few times in my life, including when I watched Star Wars as a kid and Terminator 2: Judgment Day more than twenty years ago, with all that liquid metal and Robert Patrick’s T-100 doing all the shape-shifting.

Gravity’s story is simple: Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock), a scientist, and astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) are on a mission when something horrible happens, leaving them stranded in space. What follows is a 90-minute survival tale, an intense and emotional journey.

You know you’re in for something seminal right at the beginning, with a long, unbroken shot of the glimmering surface of the Earth, as seen from 600 km above it. Then the space shuttle Explorer takes its time coming into frame, with Kowalski cruising around it on a jet pack. I find the 3D in most movies completely unnecessary, but in Gravity it’s used beautifully.

I also don’t care for IMAX, but recommend seeing this movie on the biggest screen possible to get the full immersive experience. Sometimes the POV is from inside Stone’s helmet looking out, the sound would cut out, and you really get the sense of floating/spinning in space, which is at once hypnotic and terrifying. I almost cried several times from anxiety and frustration.

But all the artful cinematography and special effects wouldn’t, well, have any weight without Bullock anchoring the movie. Her Dr. Stone is brave and ordinary at the same time, a somewhat regular person being thrown into the most extraordinary circumstances imaginable. Bullock has the difficult job of holding the screen alone for long stretches, but she makes it look easy and natural. Clooney brings his usual charm to the calm and experienced Kowalski, a good balance to Bullock’s novice in space.

The movie may be labeled as sci-fi but I wouldn’t call it that. There are no aliens, the story is about humans, and the technology on screen, as far as I could tell, mostly  already exists. What Cuarón and his collaborators achieved, however, is not something you’ve likely seen before.

Nerd verdict: Gravity has strong magnetic pull

Photo: Warner Bros.

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23 Comments

  • Reply
    Eddy
    October 4, 2013 at 4:52 am

    We are planning on going to see it this weekend. In an unusual twist, the local theater only has two 2-D showings (2:00 p.m. and too-late-for-me 9:30 p.m.) and eight, count ’em eight, 3-D showings. I guess we’ll shoot for the 2:00 p.m.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 4, 2013 at 11:40 am

      Or go to a 3D screening!

      • Reply
        Eddy
        October 4, 2013 at 12:11 pm

        We discussed it, but giving our past experiences, we’d have to take Dramamine first.

  • Reply
    le0pard13
    October 4, 2013 at 6:28 am

    I’ll be at the newly renovated Chinese Theatre to see this on their IMAX screen. Pretty excited about this.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 4, 2013 at 11:41 am

      Oooh, have fun! Want to hear what you think.

      • Reply
        le0pard13
        October 4, 2013 at 8:23 pm

        I’m still thinking of it after coming home from seeing the film. Your review nails what comes with this experience. For all its high-tech wizardry and spectacular visuals, it is probably the most intimate, spiritual encounter I’ve had this year. Did I say I’m still contemplating it?

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          October 4, 2013 at 8:41 pm

          I’m still thinking about it, too, and I saw it days ago! It was a beautiful and emotional experience for me. So glad you liked it.

  • Reply
    Paulette
    October 4, 2013 at 8:28 am

    I am thrilled that you love this movie! This one is on the list … John is excited about it and says he will make every effort to go! Now that excites me.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 4, 2013 at 11:42 am

      It’s good to hear that, Paulette. I’ve been thinking of you and John.

      • Reply
        Paulette
        October 4, 2013 at 5:41 pm

        Thanks, Elyse. Going to try IMAX and 3D tomorrow!

  • Reply
    jenn aka the picky girl
    October 4, 2013 at 8:34 am

    I hadn’t heard anything about this movie, honestly, so when I saw that photo, I was a bit surprised. This seems so completely different for both of them. And without your review, I likely wouldn’t have wanted to see this as space films aren’t really my deal. But floating around space is easily one of my greatest fears (like yes, it could happen at any time. Ha!), and it does sound interesting.

    Thanks for the review!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 4, 2013 at 11:45 am

      Space and sci-fi movies aren’t my favorite, either, despite being a die-hard Star Wars fan, but this is definitely a human story. If you see it, prepare to be terrified. I think I left claw marks on my husband’s arm while watching.

  • Reply
    Laura Benedict
    October 4, 2013 at 10:10 am

    Glad you reviewed this, Elyse, and liked it. I never would’ve thought to see it. I should probably be embarrassed to admit I had a serious ageist moment when I saw the trailer. Bullock is 48 or 49, and Clooney is 52 or so. Aren’t they a little old to be astronauts? Did something bad happen to all the hot, young astronauts? Can I be excused b/c I’m 51, and can’t imagine putting my body through space program training?

    Um, maybe I’m overthinking this, lol. It *is* a movie after all. xo

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 4, 2013 at 11:47 am

      Would it help to say Bullock looks at least 10 years younger than her real age? She’s in remarkably good shape, which is revealed when she strips off the space suit.

      • Reply
        Laura Benedict
        October 4, 2013 at 11:58 am

        If it’s really good, I can suspend my disbelief!
        I will need to find a non-3D showing, though. 3D gives me the queasies.

        • Reply
          Pop Culture Nerd
          October 4, 2013 at 12:01 pm

          It is really good, Laura. 3D makes me queasy, too, but I didn’t have a problem with this for some reason.

  • Reply
    Eirego
    October 4, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Going this morning. Already bought my tickets for the 2-D showing, but will probably sneak into the IMAX 3-D screening after reading review. Shhhhhhhhh.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 4, 2013 at 11:48 am

      I ain’t saying nothin’ to nobody. Enjoy!

  • Reply
    stacybuckeye
    October 4, 2013 at 6:34 pm

    Love her. Can’t wait to see it.

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm

      Yay! Go this weekend if you can!

  • Reply
    Paulette
    October 5, 2013 at 12:58 pm

    We did it! IMAX and 3D….thank you for the review inspiring John to venture out. It felt grand to be on a movie date with my fella. What a stunning experience!

    • Reply
      Pop Culture Nerd
      October 5, 2013 at 2:29 pm

      I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that. So glad I somehow helped make date night happen!

  • Reply
    Christine McCann
    October 6, 2013 at 6:20 am

    The film makers owe you a “Thanks!” We saw a trailer for Gravity in the theater that underwhelmed both of us. Now, not only will we catch the movie in the theater, but we’ll seek out the IMAX 3-D version. 😉

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