Gravity-attachment0

Gravity

Movie Information

The Story: Two astronauts accidentally set adrift in space must find a way to survive and make it back to earth. The Lowdown: Brilliantly made, impeccably acted, visually impressive and undeniably intense in its suspense. Gravity is a fine film, but is maybe too efficient for its own good.
Score:

Genre: Sci-Fi Suspense
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris (voice)
Rated: PG-13

Don’t get me wrong, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is good. It’s very good. And right now it’s the fair-haired boy of cinema, pulling down much more money than was expected. (That has a lot to do with the studio and critics convincing viewers to see it in 3-D.) However, is it, as has been claimed, the greatest film ever? Is it the best use of 3-D of all time? Is it a work as revolutionary as 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey? No, no and no. Less ridiculously hyperbolic and more to the point, is it a worthy follow-up to Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006) and was it worth waiting seven years for? Sadly, I’m saying no and no here, too, though I do rate Cuarón in the upper reaches of modern filmmakers.

Gravity is a beautifully made sci-fi suspense picture. On that level, the film is beyond reproach — apart from one cheesy shock effect complete with musical sting (you’ll know it when you see it). Its story is simple suspense material — two astronauts are left adrift in space by an accident and face death by lack of oxygen and flying debris. For setup, Cuarón wisely cast two performers — Sandra Bullock and George Clooney — who come complete with audience sympathy built in. This allows him to get on with the business of the story with minimum muss and fuss. Both Bullock and Clooney are fine, though it’s really Bullock’s show. A couple of times her rom-com background comes through, yes, but that’s really our baggage more than it’s her performance.

The life-and-death urgency of it all is undeniably intense. The effects work is flawless. I never doubted for a moment that what I was seeing was real. The 3-D is certainly good, but I suspect Gravity works just as well without it. (Hugo and The Great Gatsby both impressed me more as serious uses of the format.) Even while I was sure I was being led down the garden path with one far-fetched plot turn (and I was), I had no objection and it didn’t remove me from the story. That’s the thing that makes Cuarón’s film such compelling entertainment: It keeps you locked into that story and caring about what happens. For all its technical panache and spectacular visuals, it remains a firmly human story.

Also in the film’s favor is that it’s extremely efficient. It gets down to its story and delivers it with admirable economy and then has the good sense not to drag it out beyond its value. You don’t so much watch the film as experience it. The only downside is that it goes almost too fast. There’s a lack of heft to it all in that regard. Everything is so immediate that when it ends, it more or less just releases the viewer so that you leave the theater feeling satisfied — but not really left with all that much to stick with you. At least, that’s my experience. Compare this with the incredible banquet that was Children of Men, and, even for all its undeniable merit, Gravity still feels like Cuarón-lite. By all means, see it. But if it actually does change your idea of cinema, you might want to see more movies. Rated PG-13 for intense, perilous sequences, some disturbing images and strong language.

Playing at Carolina Cinemas.

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About Ken Hanke
Head film critic for Mountain Xpress since December 2000. Author of books "Ken Russell's Films," "Charlie Chan at the Movies," "A Critical Guide to Horror Film Series," "Tim Burton: An Unauthorized Biography of the Filmmaker."

25 thoughts on “Gravity

  1. Jeremy Dylan

    I feel like the effects work in this is what everyone told me AVATAR had delivered.

    Reading up on the production after seeing the film, the seamless integration of CGI and live action elements becomes even more impressive.

  2. T Rex

    SPOILERS SPOILERS COMING………

    I liked it a lot and look forward to seeing it on I MAX or RPX.
    My only complaint was the ending. I didn’t think anything on land was needed and when Ryan was getting her balance back it felt like a brick on the head. I’m a huge fan of open endings, a “you make the call” type ending (Inception) and felt this movie would have been better suited with one. The moment when Ryan climbs into the Chinese Vessel as it was reaching the atmosphere would have been a great time to cut to credits. I even thought she was in a simulator until the water rushed in. Over all a great experience as you said and will definitely be in my 2013 top ten.
    My screening had the Grudge Match trailer. I’m sure you are excited for that one Ken. LoL

  3. Me

    “People didn’t half talk a lot of shit about Avatar.”

    Whats that supposed to mean? I feal this film will have a backlash in the near future, i just feal it.

    This is the first 3D film i have ever seen are they all that good or was this one the exception, at one point it felt like things were floating over the audience and i didn’t even see it in IMAX.

  4. Steven

    I don’t have much of a problem with the ending as it brings the film full circle on a thematic level. It would have seriously shot itself in the foot had it ended in the chinese vessel.

  5. Ken Hanke

    My screening had the Grudge Match trailer. I’m sure you are excited for that one Ken.

    I’m hoping to dodge that. And who the hell is programming trailers? What a lousy choice.

  6. Ken Hanke

    People didn’t half talk a lot of shit about Avatar.”

    Whats that supposed to mean?

    Well, if they didn’t half talk a lot of shit, it means they did talk a lot of shit.

    I feal this film will have a backlash in the near future, i just feal it

    Not hard to guess. Anything that’s popular and widely acclaimed suffers that because of a section of the public who believe that nothing that’s of any actual value can be popular. (And it’s “feel.”)

    This is the first 3D film i have ever seen are they all that good or was this one the exception, at one point it felt like things were floating over the audience and i didn’t even see it in IMAX.

    While I didn’t think the 3D was all that remarkable (i.e., I’ve seen better), the short answer is no, all 3D films are not that good. Some — especially retrofits — are pretty awful.

  7. Ken Hanke

    I don’t have much of a problem with the ending as it brings the film full circle on a thematic level. It would have seriously shot itself in the foot had it ended in the chinese vessel.

    Yeah, I’m not exactly on board with that idea either. Then again, while I like this movie, I’ve got a hunch I don’t like it as much as others, e.g., I have no real interest in seeing it again. It’s not going to stick with me.

  8. Me

    I didn’t see Avatar or follow it enough to know if people had bad talked it or not.

    I know Gravity is getting nit picked to death, did you know there are even Gravity truthers? There was an interesting article on Salon/ The Wrap where they point out how people just can’t enjoy a film viscerally and can’t take it at face value.

    “feal” my ancestors died during the Black Death, didnt you know?

  9. Ken Hanke

    I wasn’t talking about Avatar getting nitpicked (if ever a movie deserved it, that one did). I was talking about how everyone was peeing down their legs about how great its 3D was. Something I didn’t think was all that special.

    Of course, no one take a film at face value millions of internet connections have made sure of that.

  10. Me

    “I wasn’t talking about Avatar getting nitpicked”

    No one said you did.

  11. Ken Hanke

    (Slaps forehead. Wanders off. Feels like Groucho trying to reason with Chico.)

  12. Me

    Anybody read the Slate article on Gravity becoming a camp classic? I don’t know if i agree with them, but maybe as space exploration and technology advances it might be.

  13. Ken Hanke

    I dont even know anything about them, other than who’s on first.

    This doesn’t really surprise me.

    Anybody read the Slate article on Gravity becoming a camp classic?

    No, and unless you post a link to it, I’m not likely to.

  14. Ken Hanke

    I didn’t think you wanted me posting links to other articles, i figured you thought it was driving people away from this website or something.

    Not at all. What I object to is people “proving” their point by directing me to some link rather than making their own case for it.

  15. Ken Hanke

    Interesting, but not especially persuasive, piece. It’s pretty easy to make fun of anything and make it sound like camp, but camp classics rarely if ever come from movies that are generally thought of as “good.” I mean, I could take Amour and rag the hell out of it, but I doubt I could sell it to a broad public as camp. He actually sounds like he’s kind of pissed off with himself for going along with the movie’s suspense in the first place.

  16. Edwin Arnaudin

    I could take Amour and rag the hell out of it

    Yes! Please! I’ll help you! The Rocky Haneke Picture Show!

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