Usually for our subtitles we come up with something clever, but I think the most important thing to be said about Gravity is that it needs, demands and begs to be seen in 3D on the biggest, digital IMAX branded screen you can find. This is a movie for movie theaters. This is a film that cannot be appreciated to its full extent off of the big screen. Gravity is why movie theaters exist.
Gravity is also why you love film. Every aspect of film. Not just art house. Not just action. Not just character stories. It shows you exactly why you love the movies in a sweaty-palm inducing 90 minutes. There is hype and then there’s truth. Everything you’ve heard about Gravity is true.
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Release Date: October 4, 2013
You may be still reading, and I can think of only one reason you are: you have time to kill before going to watch Gravity. That’s fine. I’ve got some words to say.
Just to get it out of the way, Gravity has a plot. It revolves (quite literally at times) around Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer sent into space to fix equipment on a satellite. She’s joined on this mission by Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), an experienced astronaut. When some errant space debris sets of a chain reaction that causes all the satellites around earth to start crashing into each other (a thing that could actually happen) Ryan and Matt are hurled adrift in space and must struggle to somehow get back to earth.
This plot, though brilliantly handled and kept to a fantastically crisp pace is not what makes Gravity so incredibly monumental. It’s director Alfonso Cuarón’s mastery of cinema. Watching Gravity is like staring at the Mona Lisa or hearing Mozart for the first time. This is a work of art that captures emotions, themes and characters and sucks you into them. Cuarón’s 17 minute, single-take opening shot is so well executed that when the camera finally does cut it’s a perfectly timed sucker punch to your gut because you’ve forgotten you were watching a film. Rarely does a movie come along where you so easily get lost in it.
This is one of the reasons Gravity must be seen on the big screen. Cuarón is not working with little ideas or scenes here. The gravity (sorry) of space — it’s sheer size and vastness — can only truly be appreciated seeing the movie as big as possible and in 3D. Yes, in 3D. Cuarón, like Scorcese before him, knows how to use 3D as more than a gimmick. His shots use the depth to suck you into to Ryan’s desolation in the emptiness of space. You practically swim into the depth of the screen it feels so expansive and deep. Then when the action ramps up Cuarón uses the big screen and 3D to its fullest to deliver sequences that don’t just keep you on the edge of your seat, but hurl you across the theater. This could easily be the closest any of us will ever get to feeling like we’re in space.
The technical aspects of Gravity must be hailed as well. James Cameron has already gushed, about it, but the technology and game changing filming done here will blow you away. Cuarón wanted real lighting for his actors who would be performing in almost entirely CG settings, so he created a LED lighting room that the actors would shoot in for hours on end all alone. This meant the entire film had to be planned out beforehand so the lighting was right. Then the actor’s heads are almost seamlessly put into their digital space suits and for the majority of the film that’s all your seeing of actual shot footage. It is, to say the least, a ground breaking leap in what we should expect visually from our films.
But all of this isn’t what makes Gravity truly great. Tucked within what is basically a science fiction action/survival movie is a metaphor for life, rebirth and growth that applies to all of us. There’s characters to get lost in here, and though it sometimes plays its metaphorical shots a bit heavy handily, it’s a beautifully constructed narrative that runs the entire length of the film without ever being spoken of. It’s the fact that the running metaphor doesn’t simply apply to the characters of the film, but to all of us that takes Gravity from great film to legendary. It’s a character piece that plays out above the entire earth and unfolds into a story about all of us hinting at the big life questions that the best in this genre (2001 to name drop) always do.
This all would have failed without Bullock, who delivers a character that’s nuanced and complex, yet there’s almost no exposition in the film and for the majority of it she is alone. The easy comparison is to Tom Hanks in Castaway, but Bullock’s performance is even more impressive because she was locked in a room for the entire thing with nothing to actually act off of. Clooney is pretty much Clooney. Charming as ever, but never horribly deep. His role doesn’t call for it, though, as he’s simply there to be the last guardian Bullock’s character has before she must learn to walk again on her own.
Finally (well, not really, I could go on for pages): the sound design and score. Yet another reason to pay the extra bucks for an IMAX experience. If Gravity doesn’t net every sound Oscar there is it will confirm once and for all that the Oscars are a sham. Composer Steven Price and Cuarón worked incredibly closely to balance silence and sound, bouncing you through the muffled world of space in perfectly jarring and sublime measures. The sound design itself is a small miracle, grabbing at you while never defying the rule that there is no sound in space. The movie is a lesson in how knowing when to be quiet is just as important as composing the right notes.
So that’s it. Get your tickets. Make this a hit and make sure that Hollywood knows that we want more movies like it. More movies where clear artistic passion and love shine through. More movies where great directors are allowed to do great things. More movies where an actor’s performance is just as important as the special effects on screen. See Gravity not just because it has to be seen on the big screen, but because it should be.