Gravity

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Director: Alfonso Cauron.
Screenplay: Alfonso Cauron, Jonas Cauron.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney.
Voice of: Ed Harris.

Clear skies with a chance of satellite debris“.

In 2009, director James Cameron opened the floodgates on the innovation and possibilities of stereoscopic filmmaking when he delivered “Avatar“. Since then, it has been experimented and tinkered with by many filmmakers but now, four years later, Mexican director Alfonso Cauron has set a whole new benchmark.

Fixing a satellite on a seemingly routine spacewalk, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) finds themselves in the midst of a catastrophe when their shuttle is destroyed by flying debris. They lose all contact with home and end up adrift above the Earth’s atmosphere with their oxygen running dangerously low. Somehow, they must find a way to save themselves as they spiral into the blackness of space.

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When word broke about the revolutionary use of 3-D in Cauron’s “Gravity“, cinema goers flocked in their numbers to see what all the fuss was about. So much so, that only a mere two weeks after it’s UK release date, I felt very much like the film’s protagonist in that I was getting left behind. Now, having finally seen it with my own eyes, I can personally answer the major question that hangs over it: Is it worth the hype? The answer to that is a resounding, Yes! In terms of a visual and immersive cinematic experience, “Gravity” is simply unparalleled. Cauron and his highly talented cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have crafted a film of such powerful magnitude and engagement that it will have you in awe at just how they managed to do it. I began the film expecting dazzling visual effects and long uncut shots in the style that Cauron has become accustomed to – his work with Lubezki in “Children of Men” has one of the most impressive tracking shots I’ve ever witnessed and here, they both go about their business in the same manner. The opening 10 minutes alone are entirely one long, uninterrupted, shot and after this I gave up trying to work out how they actually achieved it. It’s such a seamless, technical marvel, that it’s nothing short of mesmerising.

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As is often the case with special effects laden movies, though, there tends to be shortcomings elsewhere. Which brings to me answer another overriding question at the film’s core: Does “Gravity” have the requisite depth in terms of it’s story? The answer to that is, sadly, No! It certainly achieves a feeling of claustrophobia and existential dread but it’s story is rather tame in comparison to its sumptuous visuals. It could, understandably, be argued that this isn’t an issue in the grander scale of things, but I was looking for something a little deeper. In fairness, it does attempt the themes of science and technology versus religion with constant reminders hinted at in the shape of Christian and Buddhist iconography. It even touches upon life and loss with symbolic representations of rebirth and being in the womb but ultimately, this is a disaster story, reflecting the human spirit and the insistence of survival against insurmountable odds. It’s here, that the film focuses on the suffering and endurance of Bullock’s character. Many have heaped critical praise on the actress but her casting was another slight issue for me. I’m simply not a fan. I don’t think Bullock has the ability to command the screen for as long as she does. It’s not a poor performance, by any means, but she’s more of a kooky rom-com actress and lacks the range to fully convince. As for Clooney, he’s in it very little, but again, I found the Cloonmeister’s charm and charisma a little distracting and misplaced here, reminding me that it was still a movie I was watching. I wanted to forget and be swept into the film’s endless void but it never allowed me to fully do that, leaving me with the feeling that lesser known actors may have worked better here. Despite, these minor flaws, though, the film itself is absolutely gripping. Cauron builds the tension slowly, letting you bask in the sheer beauty of our planet and the wonderment that lies beyond it, before bombarding you with dizzying and visceral action set-pieces that refuse to let up. Take my advice and see it in all it’s visual splendour at the IMAX where if any film deserved to be seen on such a scale, it’s this one. On that note, I wonder about the replay value of a film like this. Only time will tell wether it will have the same impact when viewed in 2-D or on the small screen.

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At the time, I couldn’t quite overlook the slight, aforementioned, issues but on reflection this isn’t a film whose main intention is to appeal intellectually or existentially, this is a film that intends to immerse you in a physical experience and for that it deserves a rapturous applause. There’s really no denying that “Gravity” is an involvement and an adventure like no other and it will leave you, without a doubt in your mind, that you’ve just witnessed the most accomplished use of special-effects in cinematic history.

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Mark Walker

Trivia: Robert Downey Jr. was originally cast in Clooney’s role but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.

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62 Responses to “Gravity”

  1. Great review, Mark. I loved it and thought it lived up to the hype, too.

  2. Nice review. It’s interesting to note that the film was originally under Universal before Warner Bros. picked it up. Imagine a whole film taking place around a logo.

  3. Yessss! So glad you liked this movie bro. It’s my favorite of the year so far. It’s such a gorgeous film and memorable experience. Good stuff buddy.

    • Cheers bro! I really enjoyed it. In terms of story, though, I wasn’t all that impressed but I couldn’t rate it any lower than I did, simply because of the stunning experience that it was. It’s still not my favourite of the year. “The Hunt” is still hanging in there for me but “Gravity” is only the third film this year that I’ve given 4.5 stars. I’ve still not given out a top rating yet. I thought I might have with this, but the story let me down a little.

  4. Going to see this tomorrow, cannot wait. Great review man, I can’t see it being anything other than a brilliant film. Yeah hype was also a concern for me, glad it lives up to the hype.

    • Go and see it at the IMAX Chris. Honestly, it’s worth the extra price. The hype is real this time but the story is a bit weak. That was the biggest letdown for me.

  5. I know it’s practically a cliche to say by now, but I’ll say it anyway: Loved the look, hated the script. There, I said it and I am done! Good review Mark.

    • Couldn’t agree more Dan. The story was very poor to be honest. I left the cinema feeling a little disappointed because of that but there’s no denying the visual spectacle that it is. It’s almost hard to believe.

  6. Great review Mark! I gave this one a full score. I think the story is simple but I’d say it’s quite profound. It’s one of those films that is NOT style over substance, in my humble opinion anyway :D

    • Thanks Ruth. I was hoping to give it a full score but couldn’t bring myself too. In fact, I was considering a 4 star for quite a while but felt that was unfair due to how astounding it was. The story for me seemed lightweight and only served as a vehicle to drive further special effects. To each their own, though. I’m probably in a minority on this one.

  7. Agreed. More or less completely.

    • Nice one! Thanks, man. I thought I could expect a bit of backlash for some of my opinions here.

      • Not from me, anyway. I think Bullock was better than you do, but otherwise we basically made the same points. I might think the lite narrative a lesser flaw than you, but there’s no denying it’s a flaw.

      • Yeah, I just read your review. I didn’t dislike Bullock here. She was good but I’d have proffered a stronger actress in that role.

        P.s. I’ve left a message on your site about a email follow button I’m looking for…

      • That’s fair. She’s not great, really in anything. I did think she played Ryan Stone about as well as necessary, though. Like I said, I probably like her a tad more than you do.

        That’s really the only place wherein we disagree. And it’s a minor quibble.

        Looking into the follow by email button . . .

      • Yeah, minor quibbles, man. For the most part we’re on the same page. I’ll check back for that follow button. I really like the look of your site. Look forward to being able to keep track of your stuff. :)

      • Thanks much!

        Like I said in the other comment, it’s up there now. :-)

      • Got it, man. Following now :)

  8. Excellent stuff Mark and I couldn’t agree more. One of the films of the year for me. I can’t rmember the last time a film immersed me so completely as this one did. You’re right about its shortcomings, but this is what cinema is all about.

    • Cheers buddy. Without a doubt this will feature on many a persons list of the year and even top most of them. It will be on mine for sure. There’s no doubt about it. Shortcomings and all, this is something to behold.

  9. So glad you loved this film Mark. I know there’s some great movies that came out this year (and the UK are still waiting for them) but Gravity so far is my film of the year. Absolutely loved it and fully deserves the praise it has been getting.

    • I did find flaws, which I was a little disappointed in at first but realised afterwards that my expectations were extraordinarily high so I forgave most of them. It’s an astounding movie for sure.

  10. Nice review. Like some of the other commenters, Gravity’s my favorite movie of the year. I didn’t have any problems with the script, even though it was a bit simple, but found the imagery amazing. I paid extra money to see it in 3D and while I still think the ticket price was too high it was worth every penny.

    • Thanks man! As mentioned I wasn’t overly impressed with the story but the visuals and overall experience outweighed that. I seen it in the IMAX and I’d pay every penny to go see it again.

  11. “…this isn’t a film whose main intention is to appeal intellectually or existentially, this is a film that intends to immerse you in a physical experience and for that it deserves a rapturous applause. “

    Hear, hear.

  12. Good review Mark, glad you like it and enjoyed reading as always. Nothing of interest really to add to be honest, and can see where you’re coming from re the story. It didn’t bother me too much but it was a real sticking point for my wife – she preferred Captain Phillips in terms of the autumn edge-of-your-seat big hitters.

    • Nice one Stu! Thanks mate. Yeah, the story… what more can I say, man? I found it pretty lacklustre but it served its purpose for Cauron to jump from amazing set-piece to amazing set-piece. I haven’t seen Captain Phillips yet but if it’s as good as Gravity then I’m all for it.

  13. Nice review, Mark. I can certainly agree that Clooney was perhaps a bit too Clooney, and the story wasn’t the most deepest piece of writing around, but these really were minor quibbles that really didn’t detract from the movie for me. This one’s a technical masterpiece, and is an absolute thrill-ride. :)

  14. Interesting point on the cast, I wasn’t thinking about Bullock being a rom-com actor here, it all just fell away, whilst Clooney was just Clooney.

  15. Fantastic movie and great review. I agree that Clooney played Clooney and was a little distracting but, even though I’m not her biggest fan, I thought Bullock was just superb in this.

    • Thanks Fernando! Good to see you drop by :)

      I’m glad that a lot of people seemed to be taken with Bullock here. I wish I was. Don’t get wrong, it wasn’t a poor performance but I would have proffered another actress with a bit more range.

  16. Glad you dug this one man and sounds like we’re on the exact same page. It’s an absolute wonder visually but there are issues with the story/script and Clooney was distracting with his one shmoozy quip after another. Fine review mate.

    • Cheers Chris! Yeah, as much as I normally really like Clooney, I think he was the wrong choice here. Too distracting and the same goes for Bullock with me too. I don’t think she’s as good as she’s made out to be and another actress would have been more effective. It was too light on the story as well, but nearly all if this can be forgiven as the films such a visual masterpiece.

  17. I find my assessment was very similar to yours in that the visuals were beyond compare, yet the script a bit less so. The story issue was significant enough that I docked it a full star as I value script over special effects. However it was an overall enjoyable event movie that entertains beautifully.

    • Thanks Mark. I actually had it at a 4 star rating but decided to bump it up slightly as I’ve never quite witnessed anything like it on a visual front. Totally agree on the story, though. It was rather weak and empty.

  18. Damn! Another believer! I really have to check this out. Great review Mark!

  19. Nice work, Muckers!! I know a lot of people are griping about the dialogue but my argument is this “Who went to see the 3D space disaster movie expecting some award winning dialogue?” I’ve never physically felt like this in a movie so that alone make this my movie of the year.

    Boat Drinks!

  20. Glad you liked the movie, however I will never understand the ‘it lacks depth’ criticism. I found the story of the film to be very profound on human level and easy to relate to. This is the movie that deals with life and humanity as well as the human spirit. It would be hard to find something deeper than that.

    • Thanks Sati. I did really enjoy it on visual level but the story just didn’t flow as well for me. I wasn’t looking for aliens and shit but the cosmos has much more wonder and depth than this story on a human level. I was hoping for it to explore some of these wonders and philosophical ideas rather than resort to a character with a torn past that only addressed her inner feelings. I’m probably being pedantic but I found the script quite empty to be honest.

  21. Nice review. :-) Glad you enjoyed it despite having some issues with it. I sort of agree with those issues – I personally liked Bullock’s character & think she did a great job but can see not everyone going for her or her character. Agree more with the issues with Clooney…

    • Yeah, these issues did stay with me when the film was over but really they are rather small in comparison to the sheer scale and visual masterclass of the film overall. It was a fantastic experience and despite Bullock and Clooney, I completely went with it.

  22. Excellent review! Gravity is an exceptional film that brings out all kinds of different emotions in you. It’s insightful, intelligent, thrilling and original. Alfonso Cuarón crafts Gravity out with everything he’s got with the end result being a visual masterpiece enhanced by Emmanuel Lubezki’s bewitching cinematography. You make an interesting point about Bullock, I’m not normally a fan, and I do think a more talented actress could have done wonders with the role. However, I did enjoy her here.

    • Much obliged. There’s no doubt that Gravity is one of the finest, most immersive and powerful experiences I’ve had at the cinema in a long time. It was simply stunning. I wasn’t overly keen on the storyline though and, yeah, Bullock really didn’t float my satellite, if you get my meaning.

  23. Another great and extremely concise review Mark. It is one of the most immersive cinematic experiences I have seen in recent years, but I agree, it does lack in story and yes, I to found Clooney’s usual shtick a little misplaced and distracting at times. In the end, I simply viewed the film as a 91 min thrill ride and for that, I was highly impressed. Perhaps there is hope for 3D yet…

    • It would seem that we’re on the very same page here my friend. As an immersive experience it was like no other. That’s why I rated it so highly. I did consider giving a slightly lesser score because of the story and the chosen actors but really it was to complain when the visuals were so damn striking.

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