GRAVITY review by Ronnie Malik – Sandra Bullock helps us get lost in space

GRAVITY review by Ronnie Malik – Sandra Bullock helps us get lost in space



Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Paul Sharma, Amy Warren, Basher Savage

Rating: A-

Space is a desolate vastness that is still a mystery to mankind. The universe provides for an unwelcoming chilly temperature of -455 Fahrenheit, and if you find yourself stuck in the cold cosmic world no one can hear you scream for help because no sound travels in outer-space. This ocean of emptiness would have to be one of the roughest and almost impossible environments for any person to survive, and the film Gravity explores just what could happen if someone were lost in space. It manages to take us on a white-knuckle, terrorizing, heart pounding, and wild roller coaster ride into the great beyond.

The story is very simple but the complexity lies in how the film is presented which is brilliantly. Five astronauts are on a shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope. Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is a seasoned astronaut on his last mission. Kowalski spends his time testing a new jet pack that allows him to enjoy the freedom of floating around space while telling humorous stories to mission control that both bore and entertain his listeners. Kowalski is a cheeky little jokester whose one goal is to break the space walking record. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is the nervous newbie on her first space mission.

Apprehensive about her role on the space mission, Stone is trying her best to fix a piece of equipment and finds herself getting more and more frustrated as each of her attempts to repair the broken piece is failing. To top it off the poor girl is suffering from stomach summer slats and wooziness since she is not use to space travel. But it is still a routine day in space world as Stone listens to Kowalski’s stories and fellow colleague Shariff (Paul Sharma) singing. We never get to really see the other two astronauts who are manning the shuttle from inside.

Then the voice (Ed Harris) of mission control frantically orders the shuttle team to abort their mission. A Russian satellite has been blown up and the debris traveling faster than the speed of light is heading straight for them. The debris smashes into the shuttle destroying it, killing three of the crew, and leaving only Stone and Kowalski as survivors. The collision causes Stone to get disconnected from the spacecraft and she finds herself spinning out of control with no way to grab on to anything for safety. Stone is disoriented and discombobulated and it seems imminent that the medical engineer will be lost in space and most likely die alone in the abyss of the cosmos.

For much of the film we have a one woman show as the camera focuses in on Bullock’s character. The close ups of the actress make us feel like we are in her head looking out from her helmet and seeing and feeling everything she is experiencing. The feeling of panic is real as Bullock‘s breathing becomes more and more labored and you just might find your own breathing becoming more shallow as you experience her fear. The question of how on earth Ryan Stone will survive under unimaginable stress during chaos that creates crazy unfavorable odds for any person to overcome will surely keep audiences in their seats just to see what happens next. Many will calculate the end of Bullock’s character based on the perils she faces, but this is a movie about overcoming the inconceivable. Our leading lady will be battling raging fires, getting knocked unconscious, fly through space, have well deserved panic attacks, and as if her day just can’t get any worse, every 90 minutes the debris is going to cross her path again. Bullock gives an extremely impressive performance as a woman facing the gravity of her situation. This seasoned actress is able to hold her own and engage the audience while completely alone on the screen along with showing off lots of physical challenges that she makes look totally effortless.

Clooney plays smart-alecky Matt Kowalski in good old fashioned Clooney style. He delivers his lines with the wit and charm he is famous for, although at times his character seems a bit too calm during the unraveling of a rather crazy situation. His character provides comic relief while helping Stone realize that she can go on and not be defeated by the most outrageous fluke and chain of events that were thrown in her path.

Gravity is a technical masterpiece. Lost-in-space movies have been done before but none quite like this film directed brilliantly by Alfonso Cuarón. Just imagine the hours it must have taken to shoot the zero gravity scenes showing a space shuttle being ripped to shreds as shrapnel tears the steel structure apart.

The set design that includes stars set against the blackness of space, the rubble of the space shuttle, the threatening pieces of debris speeding towards the camera all make for incredible visual effects. The zero gravity effects are especially notable with scenes of Bullock floating gracefully in and out of space stations trying to figure out how she is going to survive. The 3D effect is wonderful and not only allows us to feel what it might be like in space but also adds to the feeling of emptiness and loneliness that space provides. The score (by Steven Price) makes the eerie feeling of the movie even more powerful by enhancing all the emotions of despair, fear, loneliness, and hopelessness.

Some of the action scenes are a bit of a stretch out of reality so just leave your logic meter at the door. Gravity is still a cinematic achievement that provides for a tension-filled 90 minutes that will keep audiences on the edge of their seats and wondering “how did they do that?” for a long time to come.

GRAVITY opens October 4, 2013

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