North Texas Daily

Review: “Gravity”

Review: “Gravity”

Review: “Gravity”
October 03
11:40 2013

Preston Barta / Film Critic

Rating: 5/5

Seven years is a long time to wait for one of Hollywood’s most innovative and visionary filmmakers to produce another feature. But thankfully, Alfonso Cuarón, who created 2006’s cinematic triumph “Children of Men,” makes the wait well worth it with his best work to date— the jaw-dropping space thriller titled “Gravity.” Stunning visuals combine with a sizzling musical score to play backup to some very fine acting and screenwriting.

From the stunning but minimalistic trailers, filmgoers really had no idea what to expect from this movie. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock floating around in space for two hours seemed like our best guess. But the trailers do audiences a great service through their brevity, making the full experience all the more special and gripping.

Joining Cuarón this time around is his son and co-writer, Jonás Cuarón (“Year of the Nail,” 2007). Their story is simple, tight and superbly effective: How will medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) make it back to Earth after an accident leaves them adrift in space and their shuttle crippled? There are no side-stories or unnecessary fluff. The duo’s script sticks to the task at hand and makes the most of what it can with the oxygen that is left in its characters’ tanks.

With only two actors to carry a 90-minute feature, the film relies heavily on its visuals in orbit. The stunning vista and well-composed graphics lend “Gravity” an incredible air of authenticity. Cuarón’s longtime director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki (“The Tree of Life,” 2011) does some breathtaking work with the camera. Before Cuarón resorts to his first cut, Lubezki plunges us immediately into the deafening silence of space, establishes the characters, the mission and the disaster all in one 13-minute long take. That continuous shot is enough to guarantee him a golden statue come next year. It’s spine tingling to say the least.

Lubezki’s talent is rivaled by that of the marvelous sound design crew. The often-overlooked department did an efficient job of weaving together the actors’ dialogue and the ruckus of disintegrating space stations. Through their skill, both the clarity of Clooney and Bullocks dialogue and the awful screams of tearing metal immerse us in the drama unfolding in low earth orbit. Rounding out this trifecta of visuals, sound and cinematography is an unforgettable musical score by composer Steven Price.

Price, who worked on “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and wrote the score for this year’s sidesplitting “The World’s End,” is the talented man who was tasked with bringing aural life to “Gravity.” His score proves most effective when things are calm and when trouble is imminent.

Acting wise, Clooney presents Kowalski as a fun and self-loving character that knows how to charm your pants off and make you smile; par for the course, but in the best sense of that phrase. Ultimately, however, this is Bullock’s show, and she gives the performance of her career at the front and center of this film. As an audience, with each new developing tragedy, we find ourselves gasping for air and rooting for her character’s success in each new attempt at survival. Bullock successfully shows her will and desire, and more importantly her perseverance. It’s a performance not to be missed.

Cuarón’s “Gravity” is a rare breed and a game changer for deep space movies. Visually, it will be studied for years to come, and thematically, it will be revisited by the genre’s most ardent enthusiasts. Deserving of serious awards consideration, “Gravity” is the finest film of the year. One imagines that somewhere, Stanley Kubrick (“2001: A Space Odyssey,” 1968) is looking down, smiling with admiration. So make sure you catch it on the biggest screen possible— IMAX 3D preferably.

“Gravity” opens tonight at 10 p.m.

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