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Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” is a tense, entertaining movie there’s no denying that. It has action (not in the explosions and ass-kicking sense, but action nonetheless), drama, and tension. Lots of tension! As a matter of fact, after watching the film, my friend Virgil and I decided the title was a misnomer as gravity was not a factor in the film, as it was the opposite of gravity that was the issue. We have been referring to it as “Tension” or “High Tension” to make a pun. That’s what this film is really about, tension, and it plays out really well, and quite beautifully to boot.
Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space walk with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) who is commanding his last mission, a repair of the Hubble telescope. Mission Control (aka Houston) informs the crew that a Russian missile strike attempting to destroy a defunct satellite has created a chain reaction and sent a cloud of debris hurtling their way. When the debris strike the shuttle, only Stone and Kowalski are left alive, though they are stranded out in space.
I can’t lie I had serious qualms about watching this flick. I have purposely strayed from the “one situation” type of films, like “Open Water,” “Phone Booth,” and “Buried” (though that’s one I’ve heard very good things about), but I figured, hey it’s up for an Oscar let’s see what we have. And I’m glad I did. “Gravity” was a very tense film. From the moment of the accident on, Cuaron really makes you feel the chaos and terror. Whether it’s the first person views through the helmet, the long continuous shots of the characters spinning uncontrollably into the abyss, or the anticipation of what insane catastrophe will befall them next, it’s truly an edge of your seat film. I found myself screaming at the TV a few times in hopes Bullock’s Stone would hear me and grab that bar that could save her.
Both Clooney and Bullock are at the top of their game, using their skills to act through giant space suits. In a film where pretty much everything is done with your face and the tone of your voice, they were able to convey exactly what their characters were feeling, thinking, and in some cases even the motivation behind their words. Clooney especially won me over, playing his usually charismatic self, but still exuding a calm and confidence that a veteran astronaut would have. Bullock’s Stone was a bit frustrating though. You truly feel for her, and I get that she’s not a full-on astronaut, but she makes some pretty silly choices at certain points in the film that had us both shaking our heads. And then at one point he even said, “What’s the point of a space suit?!?” But that scene was something we could let pass.
It should be noted that Steven Price’s score should get as much credit for building tension as the director, underlining the danger inherent in the film. You begin to hear it’s ominous tones as the first warning from Mission Control comes in, and it slowly amps up until the moment of impact. The score then becomes a timer of sorts, as every time you begin to hear it, it’s a countdown to when catastrophe will strike again. When the music starts it’s pretty much “Oh Shit!” time again!
But with all that tension I did find myself questioning the science of it all. Hard not to at some points. It’s entertaining, but science fact, it ain’t. There are articles that are just about the scientific flaws of the film, with Hayden Planetarium Astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson famously taking the film to task on Twitter. He did give the movie a great review, saying it was vastly entertaining. I agree with him wholeheartedly. If you don’t analyze it, the film is just a good, tense, chaotic time.
“Gravity” comes with a host of special features, most of which are about how they achieved the zero gravity effects, training for the actors, and the usual stuff. But there is also a documentary as well:
• Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space (Narrated by Ed Harris)
• Aningaaq – A short film by Jonás Cuarón
• Play With Introduction
• Gravity: Mission Control
• Shot Breakdowns
• Gravity: Silent Space Version
• Sandra’s Surprise!
If you’re looking for a film that’s gorgeous to watch, as well as entertaining and gets you on the edge of your seat, I highly recommend “Gravity.” The scenery is absolutely breathtaking even in its most harrowing moments, and you’ll find yourself holding your breath a few times. Go for a walk, a space walk, and grab “Gravity.”