Tuesday, October 1, 2013


The World English Dictionary defines “scary” as:

SCARY  (ˈskɛərɪ) 
— adj  , scarier , scariest 
1.  causing fear or alarm; frightening 
2.  easily roused to fear; timid 

The Geektastic Pico English Dictionary defines “scary” as:

SCARY  (ho-lee fuhck) 
— adj  , scarier , scariest 
1.  causing fear or alarm; frightening 
2.  being caught in a situation where there are little to no options available to ensure survival.

Gravity is defined as #2 of the Geektastic definition stretched out to an extremely effective ball droppingly scary 90+ minutes.
When debris from a Russian satellite destroys their shuttle, astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) must find a way to survive once they realize they are adrift in space.

There have been many horror movies released this year. Some have been scary (The Conjuring) and some have not (Insidious: Chapter 2). Who knew that a film that has absolutely ZERO horror elements in its script would end up being the most frightening movie of 2013? The trailers promised a lot and for once the flick it was advertising delivered. Basically it’s about overcoming your fears in order to survive, and that’s one hell of an awesome theme for a movie about life and death in a vacuum.
There may not be a whole lot of character development in the script by Alfonso Cuarón & Jonás Cuarón, but they give us just enough to convince us to like these characters before the proverbial shit hits the fan. The scenarios cooked up by these two are ingeniously horrifying and breathtaking. My jaw literally dropped during some of the sequences involving space debris and attempting to hold on for dear life in zero gravity. The “what do you do in a situation like that?” scenes, like being thrown from the wreckage of a shuttle and tumbling out into space with no way to stop, is played out in such an effective way that it not only made me gasp at regular intervals, jump when something unexpected would happen and almost brought me to tears in one instance. I mean really?! What CAN you do in a situation like that?

Director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban) apparently wanted Gravity to feature three things – amazing special effects, a series of unbroken shots to show off his genius/talent and to make the audience feel like they are right there with the characters via the 3D. He succeeded on all counts. Not only are the effects sensationally realistic, but half the time it looked like the space shots were actually captured in the Earth’s orbit. The unbroken shots, a Cuarón trademark he experimented with in Children of Men, are seamless. I couldn’t tell where cuts were hidden or what was CG or some practical in-camera effect. The 3D is a revelation! I have never really been sold on the format (horror films seem to be the only genre to use it effectively), but the way it is used here is immersive in the extreme. The depth of field is insanely realistic and the scenes involving debris will make you flinch repeatedly. There are a number of first person perspective shots that made my palms sweat. No joke. He also has a great way of making a bleak situation look hopeful. This guy is the goods.
Since the movie is essentially wall to wall visual effects the acting had better be damned phenomenal in order to separate itself apart from a lot of the other huge spectacles that were released this summer. Thankfully that is the case as Sandra Bullock puts her all into the part of Stone. Her arc is the focal point of the movie and we get to see her start off as a scared and timid astronaut and slowly grow a pair and take her life into her own hands. I‘ve never seen her so committed to a part before in my life and I hope she wins another Oscar for her portrayal (I don’t think she even remotely deserved the award she won for The Blind Side). Clooney is his usual charming self as the veteran astronaut Kowalski. He has a nice chemistry with Bullock, he provides all the nervous laughter needed as a release from the tension on display and his role’s heroic nature felt natural and not forced at all like it can be in some movies. As good as he is this is Bullock’s show plain and simple. She’s awesome.

The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki (Sleepy Hollow, Children of Men, Burn After Reading) is beautiful and flows nicely in what were, I’m sure, a series of nightmarish extended takes to make up the unbroken shots. I’m not sure what was practical and what was a CG effect, but that’s not a criticism. Illusion achieved. The score by Steven Price (Attack the Block, The World’s End) is supremely effective in selling the drama and the situation the characters are in with some pulsing electronics and bass along with some nice choir work. Check the trailer for an example of the awesome score here.
This is hardly a perfect film. I did have issue with some stuff that went down. Like how Bullock’s character is beaten up, battered and burned over the course of the movie and she doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of injury outside of a cut on her hairline when she hits a bulkhead with her naked face. Also, she is twisted in weird directions, thrown around and bashed against stationary objects as high velocities while in her spacesuit, and you’d think that there would have been a tear or some sort of damage to it. Nope, and when she takes the suit off it’s as if it’s like slipping off a dress. She turns the torso section and it pops off, no prob. The same goes for the helmet, boots, gloves and all that. I gotta call some bullshit. When you see how her body contorts at certain points in the film you’d be damn sure that suit would have come apart multiple times over. Also, gravity seems to work in this film only when it’s necessary to the plot.

I will not go into more detail about the events that take place in the film in order to not spoil the good stuff for those who intend to see it, but believe me… you will be amazed. Cuarón has pioneered a whole new type of filmmaking here that I’m sure will be imitated for years to come. While it won’t win any awards in the screenplay department and it has a few glaring flaws in logic, Gravity is a visual feast that will turn your punk ass white. I haven’t been this affected by a film in a long while. It quite literally took my breath away. See it right away, and in IMAX 3D.

4.5 out of 5

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