This past year has gone by so quickly, it's strange to imagine that we're closing in on the end of 2013 and the beginning of 2014. However, I welcome this news in the world of film, since 2013 has been an extremely disappointing year for movies. There was a lot to look forward to during the summer, but the majority of the releases were underwhelming. With my hype for Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity growing with each passing month, I was a bit anxious to see how it would turn out. After its premiere at the Venice Film Festival back in August, the feature opened to a lot of positive reviews. These opinions were supported by the following film festivals it toured through. However, it isn't uncommon for film festival guests to create hyperbole for pictures that don't necessarily deserve it. Ladies and gentlemen, you have nothing to fear. Not only is Gravity a powerful feature, but it just might be the best film of the year.
After spending some time in space, Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are finally starting to get to know each other. Ryan is a medical engineer who still has her secrets that have left scars that won't seem to heal. Meanwhile, Matt is an astronaut who has no issue telling stories from his past while he's on the job. While they are working, they're informed that a large amount of debris is headed their way. This dangerous situation leaves these two people in space with a limited amount of resources. Since they no longer have any communication with Earth, the only way they will be able to survive is if they're able to work together. Otherwise, they just might end up being left adrift in space in this intense motion picture.
The film opens with a long take of Ryan and Matt ensuring that everything is in place and working. There are a few discussions had between the characters, but it doesn't take very long for the plot to get moving. There were a lot of concerns regarding whether or not the movie would spend most of its time with a couple people floating in space and talking. This is unlike any other motion picture where the protagonists get stuck somewhere. Once the first strike of debris hits, the pacing never slows down to allow us to catch our breath. Matt and Ryan have numerous conversations as they're on the move to survive, but there isn't a single scene that comes across as moving slow. There isn't a lot of character disposition here, but we learn a lot from how the characters talk and interact with one another. You know that you found a well-written screenplay when the audience can easily sympathize with and relate to the roles on screen without requiring very much dialogue. Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón have delivered a marvelous script that achieves every goal it strives for.
The further you get into this feature, the more intense it gets. It's extremely difficult not to get entirely captivated by the story and its compelling characters within. Whenever we see the debris approaching in the distance, it's guaranteed to have you sitting at the edge of your seat. However, the majority of the suspense isn't even generated by the action sequences themselves. Instead, it establishes this tension by leaving us anticipating when the next round of debris will hit. Matt and Ryan are faced with numerous challenges and obstacles in between, and each one poses the threat of death. If you put yourself in the perspective of these characters, not only is this a compelling picture, but it's a terrifying one that will leave its mark on audiences. There wasn't a single second of the running time when I was thinking of anything other than the picture that was directly in front of me. That is a difficult feat to achieve, yet Gravity manages to make it look easy.
Gravity has a few scenes where it shows its roots to the drama genre, but it executes them extremely well. Afterwards, it's able to seamlessly transition to its extreme action sequences and hints of comedy. This filmmakers are not trying to make you laugh out loud, but it delivers a few effective chuckles that display this motion picture's dynamic nature. Before you go ahead and judge this movie for taking place in space, the material digs deeper than one would expect. While the need for survival is present, the themes of death and self-motivation are always of crucial importance. These characters continue to be emotionally broken down as the story progresses, but the fight between the desire to live and the quiet nature of death is constantly taking place. Elements such as these simply make an already well-written picture into something that demands respect.
Since the entire running time takes place in space, we don't get the chance to see very many characters. We hear a few different voices through the beginning of the first act with the use of voice-over, but we only actually see two actors. Sandra Bullock is absolutely phenomenal in the role of Ryan Stone. Some moviegoers are on the fence about Gravity, since they aren't a fan of the actress. However, that shouldn't stop you. Not only is her performance incredibly raw and powerful, but you'll come to greatly sympathize with her character. George Clooney does a marvelous job in the role of Matt Kowalski. He delivers the majority of the comic relief, but he's also what keeps Ryan motivated to fight for survival. Bullock and Clooney create absolute magic when they're on the screen together.
There isn't any other way to see Gravity than in IMAX. Between the visuals and the incredible audio track, you will be left with your jaw on the ground. Even when we're shown nothing but the view of Earth from space, it's absolute art. In the trailers, there's a lot of sound to attract audiences to the screen. However, the movie itself is accurate in its portrayal of having no sound in space. It's a lot more effective to see such destruction without hearing anything but the contemplation between the two lead roles and their heavy breathing. Every frame of this is absolutely stunning in every way imaginable. The cinematography is perfection, especially with its exceptional color palette. Writer/director Alfonso Cuarón utilizes a wide variety of intriguing angles to create a one-of-a-kind experience. We're provided with numerous POV shots, which makes this trip to space even more terrifying. Those who are a fan of the 3D format will be pleased to know that there is a fair amount of depth. Even though this movie was post-converted, it still manages to do its job successfully.
Needless to say, I utterly loved Gravity. It had me entirely engaged from the moment it started until the credits were rolling. This could have easily transformed into nothing but a visual spectacle, but Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón have written a smart screenplay that satisfies everything it should. They have provided a great concept, smart character development, plenty of action, and underlying themes that prove to be very effective. The strong performances contribute to the film's ability to draw us in. As expected, these unforgettable visuals are undeniably Oscar-worthy. Gravity is unlike any other film experience. This is an absolute must-see in IMAX and is a worthy entry into our DVD Talk Collector Series.