Holy Fucking Shit.
Holy Fucking SHIT.
I am in wonder. I have few words for what I regard as a magnum opus, a pièce de résistance for science fiction, and a monument of film in general. I have only been this awestruck by a motion picture once in my life, and that was with the splendor and majesty of James Cameron’s Avatar. But Gravity is different. Where Avatar exploded into theaters with a space-age smorgasbord of special effects, astonishing new technologies, and a thundering score, Gravity succeeds with minimalism. There is a dearth of characters -merely two, in fact- along with muffled, subdued sound, a profound and yet-subtle soundtrack, and a struggle with humanity which has never been more convincing.
Judging this film critically is a confrontation between my still-giddy attitude and an overall appreciation for what director Alfonso Cuarón has done to subvert traditional genre tropes.
I experienced Gravity in IMAX 3D, and it would be sloppy if I didn’t recommend this to any would-be movie-goer. I understand that IMAX is only available in a little over fifty nations, but if you’re lucky enough to live in one of those, spend the extra money: you will not regret it.
Sound engineering is a primary reason why this film succeeds; it’s composed and layered better than I’ve heard in any major production, ever. In space, it’s suppressed, muted, but inside, it’s loud, jarring, and powerful. It accentuates the visuals in exquisite fashion, pairing sudden, violent action with abrupt and harsh effects. The music is a triumph. It’s sometimes grating, sometimes stirringly epic, but consistently powers the narrative with razor-sharp precision. The audio underscores the artistry of the eye candy in a way which must be heard to be believed.
The visuals are in a class of their own. Technically, nothing appears artificial. The rigid, mechanical, and spiritless exteriors of the International Space Station, the space shuttle, and the Chinese Tiangong are hammered out peerlessly. These scenes endeavor the feeling that without humanity, space is empty, meaningless. Interiors are no different, although signs of habitation and rushed exit abound and supply integrity to the foreground. 3D effects are sophisticated and suggestive rather than brusque or impetuous; there are no in-your-face ‘hello I’m 3D’ moments, and yet I couldn’t imagine seeing Gravity without it. It imbues the film with genuineness and strength and crafts a complete experience.
From an acting standpoint, Gravity is unmatched. Ageless George Clooney is a steadfast rock, the commander of the mission and one who never shies away from lightening a dire situation with comedic anecdotes. A martyr, certainly, but a paramount exemplification of altruism all the same. He serves as a bastion of faith in an otherwise-hopeless imbroglio.
Sandra Bullock is perfection personified. She’s evolved from a Razzie-nominated appearance in Demolition Man to what I consider the single most prodigious performance by a thespian in the history of filmmaking. I’ve seen thousands of pictures, taken a dozen or so film-study courses in university, and encountered expansive interpretations of scripts extending from Casablanca to True Grit. Never have I viewed in awe what Sandra Bullock has done in Gravity. She begins the affair as a narrow, intransigent scientist on her first space flight, concerned only with repairing the Hubble. Throughout the film, she emerges as a human being, a soul intent on preserving its existence and the power of will to survive. Use of long takes and background noise cunningly frame Bullock’s face in a never-ending range of emotions, and she conveys the climacteric events of the narrative with fidelity and purity. I have never been washed over with a sense of completeness before, a total fulfillment displaying ingenuity and complexity which anchors a remarkable cinematic adventure.
Gravity is unique. The narrow focus of the plot is stringently concentrated and showcases a tour de force by Sandra Bullock and a commendably-impressive showing from George Clooney. The direction is forcefully sincere, a real no-frills proceeding which takes no time to pause and reflect on itself. It’s rapid, intuitive, and unparalleled -even with the long takes, grand framing of Earth, and serene solitude of space.
In short, Gravity is a masterpiece. It’s an apex film, a rejuvenation of science fact (despite a few fudgings for drama’s sake), and an example of how energetic and timeless space can be when presented with expert determination.
Conclusion: Perfection. 5.0/5.0