It’s been a while since I’ve written a movie review. Mostly because it’s been a while since I’ve been to the movies….sad robot 🙁
Anyhooters, I saw the panel for Gravity at Comic Con and listened to Sandra Bullock describe the process of making the movie and the hours she spent locked in a 9 foot square box every day and, I’m not gonna lie, I got pretty excited.
It’s hard to say much about this movie without giving it all away. What I will say about the plot (because you can gather as much from the trailers), is that Mission Specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are on a Hubble Space Telescope spacewalk installing some kind of software for new hospital systems when the Russians decide to blow up a spy satellite starting a deadly chain reaction that sends thousands of pieces of debris rocketing around the Earth directly at them every 90 minutes. Directed, co-written (along with his son, Jonás Cuarón) and co-produced by Alfonso Cuarón and featuring exactly seven actors, five of which are really only voices (including Ed Harris as Mission Control in a lovely nod to Apollo 13 and The Right Stuff), the movie is completely dependent on Bullock and Clooney and, to be honest, it felt like the parts were written specifically for them.
Clooney is all charm as Kowalski, a veteran Astronaut on his final mission. Even in the face of unspeakable circumstances, he stays cool and calm. His ability to see the sheer beauty of his surroundings, the way his good humor instantly turns serious when issuing an order and then flips back again, and his instinct that something bad is going to happen, coincides with so much of what I’ve read about and by real life Astronauts. Despite the nitpicking of Astrophysicist (and personal favorite of mine) Neil deGrasse Tyson, for those 90 minutes, I believed that Clooney was the Mission Commander.
At first, I wasn’t completely convinced by Bullock until it quickly became obvious that Stone was not an Astronaut by choice, but by circumstances. Her knowledge of the system they were installing made it necessary for her to be there and she wouldn’t have been there otherwise. Like her character, Bullock rose to the occasion. I can’t imagine that she won’t be nominated for an Oscar, and by gods, she deserves one for this performance. She carried this movie from start to finish. I want to discuss her metaphysical devolving and re-evolving but I’ll give too much away if I do so you’ll just have to spot those parts and discuss amongst yourselves.
Alfonso Cuarón deserves an Oscar as well. The visuals are breath taking. Truly. I saw an interview with Astronaut Michael Massimino on ABC World News this past Friday and he said that Gravity finally allows him to show his friends and family what it’s like to be in space and look down on the Earth. Massimino’s participation in the final Hubble servicing mission in May 2009, in which he became famous for his difficulty with a stripped bolt and his eventual triumph in removing a handrail with brute force, was one of the inspirations for the movie. Cuarón even made exact replicas of some of Massimino’s one-of-a-kind tools as props. Cuarón followed one of the Whedon rules: “Make it dark, make it grim, make it tough, but then, for the love of God, tell a joke.
I was stiff and sore when I stood up after the ending credits. The suspense had me wound up so tight I alternated between chills and forgetting to breath. Twice I looked over at my Mom because she gasped and clapped her hand to her mouth. Little things, like the Marvin the Martian figurine floating out into space, the floating tears, the barking like a dog; and big things, like the continuous shot that makes up the first several minutes of the film, the view through Bullock’s helmet, and the lovely musical score, combine to make a movie that is must, must, must see. I saw it in 3D and I’d like to see it again in 2D. Maybe I had messed up glasses or saw it on a messed up screen, but it seemed a little out of focus at times which hurt my eyes. Despite that, it was beautiful to behold.
My mom asked me afterwards if I still wanted to go to space after seeing the movie and the answer is a definite and resounding YES. I would go in a heartbeat even if I knew ahead of time that I wasn’t going to make it home. Because “either way, it’ll be a hell of a ride.”
5 out of 5 Sci-Fives!