Vision through space – Over the years, we have seen quite a few films come out based in or around space. And given the subject, that can result in a variety of ways when you figure these films can’t actually be filmed in space. The key is finding that balance between the story and effects that are believable, a combination many filmmakers have failed to produce. So, when I first read about “Gravity,” I figured this would be more of the same, but after watching it, was dead wrong thanks to the vigilant direction of Alfonso Cuarón.
What’s it about? It all starts some 200 kilometers above Earth where rookie astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer alongside veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). While out on a spacewalk to service the Hubble Space Telescope, they get word from Mission Control that debris from a Russian missile strike gone wrong was loose and heading their way. A few minutes later, Kowalski and Stone loose transmission with Houston essentially going dark and begin to get hit with high-speed debris that knocks Stone off the shuttle spinning in space. Kowalski recovers quickly, mostly because of his jet pack and rescues Stone prior to returning to the now destroyed Explorer. Without another option, they start to make their way to the International Space Station, which wasn’t too far away. But, when they arrived at the ISS, it too had sustained damage from the last debris shower leaving little options but to then try to make it over to the Chinese ISS. But, doing so would be quite the task when the debris that started all this made itself back around Earth as this case of survival began to get harder and harder resulting in a conclusion that will have you on the edge of your seat.
Who was in it? Although rare, there are only two “live” actors in this film, but given the type of story it was, that was plenty; especially when those two actors are none other than George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. That’s quite the duo for a few reasons, one of which being surprising as I would have never pictured these two in a film together. But, the chemistry was good thanks to a script that actually allowed the actors freedom to sort of become the character they wanted to be. And I’ll admit, I’m not a big Bullock fan, so just seeing her name attached threw up caution flags, but after watching her in this role, I was impressed. Sure, I could have hand-picked a few other actresses for it that would have probably done the same job she did, but those handful of actresses had to pass due to scheduling conflicts. That doesn’t mean Bullock didn’t handle it, because she did proving to me she can occupy herself without anyone on screen with her. That’s not easy and I give her a lot of credit for doing that as much as she did in this film. With that said, she did have some support from George Clooney, who also was somewhat of a surprising choice given the limited time he was in the film. But, Clooney is, well, Clooney so he made sure whatever he did was memorable and here was just fine opposite Bullock.
Genetic Flavor – For those that have never heard of director Alfonso Cuarón, don’t feel bad because I really had no clue what he had done until I looked him up. Sure, I recognized his name, which I guess is from when he directed one of the “Harry Potter” films, but that’s it. And really, he hadn’t done a whole lot which still makes me wonder how he got this gig. But, I’m glad he did because I can’t imagine anyone else doing a better job after experiencing this film in 3-D on the big screen. All the long takes and tight shots in and out of the space pods were incredible to watch and that’s to the credit of Cuarón, who wanted this film to be as realistic as ever. And while there might have been quite a bit of CGI and special effects, it was used well and at no point, did you question what was going on. Maybe James Cameron’s statement that this was the “best space film ever made” isn’t as far off as I thought when I heard it. I mean, when you break it all down, there’s not much technically wrong with this film, which says a lot given what we normally get from this genre.
Bottom Line – It’s been a while since I saw a film that was as intense as “Gravity” was from start to finish. Maybe that was the special effects or maybe it was the simple, yet meaningful story written by Alfonso Cuarón and his son Jonas. Either way, it was well worth the hefty 3-D ticket price to see it, which quite frankly is all I could have hoped for.
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