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Movie Review: Gravity

October 4, 2013

Gravity PosterGravity – A Warner Bros. Release

http://gravitymovie.warnerbros.com

Release Date: October 4th, 2013

Rated PG for intense sequences, mature themes and language

Running time: 91 minutes

Alfonso Cuarón (dir.)

Alfonso Cuarón (writer)

Jonás Cuarón (writer)

Steven Price (music)

Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone

George Clooney as Matt Kowalski

Ed Harris as Mission Control (voice)

Phaldut Sharma as Shariff (voice)

Gravity

©Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) in Gravity.

Our reviews below:

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Gravity Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

There are some films that have the power to help rewrite cinema history, beautifully humbling works of art like Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life, that transport us in a way different from anything we have seen before.  Now we can add Alfonso Caurón’s Gravity to the list, an outer space triumph that premiered to rapturous applause at TIFF and will be talked about for a long time.  This is the movie of the year.

During the opening scenes of Gravity, we find ourselves in awe of the profound expanse of space, as we marvel at the beauty of our planet as seen from above.  But after a storm of debris destroys their shuttle, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) end up stranded in the middle of space, with supplies dwindling and hope slowly slipping away into the vast darkness.  They are losing contact with headquarters back on Earth, and a mutual sense of trust between them is their only hope for survival.  Matt uses the time to share stories and peel back layers of Ryan’s tragic past, leading us on a powerful journey that keeps us in suspense, experiencing the complex emotions of this situation.

I could write any number of superlatives about the intensely personal Gravity, and the film would deserve every one of them.  Sandra Bullock delivers a stunning performance as a woman without much to live for who finds herself struggling to survive, and every panic attack and emotion she experiences transfers over perfectly to the audience, becoming just as visceral as the masterful special effects.  George Clooney compliments her with an excellent supporting role, becoming a calm and comforting presence amidst the anxiety.  Directed by the visionary Alfonso Cuarón, the camera floats freely around the characters, adding a jaw dropping feeling of weightlessness to the continuous long shots that make up the film.

I’ve seen Gravity twice, the first time during TIFF and the second time on a giant IMAX screen, and both times was left completely stunned by the experience.  The 3D adds another impressive layer of depth, blowing out into the audience during the riveting action sequences.  But not only does Gravity thrill on a purely visual level that ratchets up a palpable sense of tension throughout, this is also an incredibly emotional film that already means a lot to me in a very personal way.  The spiritual undertones of the film are masterfully handled, and the metaphors of finding strength amidst darkness are just beautiful.

At about 91 minutes, Gravity is a tightly wound experience that holds us in suspense right up until the unforgettable final scene, a profoundly emotional moment that closes the film on a perfect note.  This is a groundbreaking, breathtaking and deeply moving masterpiece that won’t soon be forgotten.  Wow.

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Gravity Review by Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

Gravity opens with three astronauts on a space walk, repairing a computer board on the side of a ship.  At first we just meet them – Dr. Stone (Sandra Bullock) doing the repairs, and Kowalski (George Clooney) who supervises as he moves around the ship on a jet pack, endlessly talking and telling stories to the other astronauts and Mission Control back home.  But suddenly, one of his stories is cut short by an emergency transmission from Control – a downed satellite is coming their way.  As it takes others with it, this accidental debris field hurtles towards them and they are hit.  Taking out the third member of their crew, suddenly Dr. Stone and Kowalski find themselves floating alone in space – disconnected from their ship, their lifeline, and the radio connection to Mission Control, dead.

You can’t really explain much more than this premise, because as the film unfolds, the uncertainty you feel and the ride you are taken on needs to be experienced firsthand.  When I first saw Gravity at TIFF, by the time it ended, I remember just sitting there and thinking, ‘what did I just watch?’  The film had blown me away – what starts as a couple astronauts floating through space becomes an emotional ride that grabs you and doesn’t let go.  The final thirty minutes or so of this 90 minute film build and build and are some of the best stuff ever put on screen.  Seeing the film a second time just a few weeks later, I was gripped again.

Sandra Bullock gives a career-defining performance as Dr. Stone, oftentimes the film relying on just her expressions and actions in a space suit.  In some ways, the focus on this one character draws you further in as an audience member – the film makes you feel as though you are floating in space throughout.  At times filmed through the space helmets in POV shots, there are some pretty disorienting moments sitting close in an IMAX theatre.  Word of note: those with the tendency to get dizzy should sit far enough back that they can still see the edges of the cinema screen.  The 3D in IMAX ghosted (image-doubling) at times, but the depth provided is admittedly spectacular.  The first time I saw the film in 3D (not IMAX), I did not notice ghosting.

There is a beauty to the film – space is beautiful.  Terrifyingly beautiful.  We are simultaneously trapped and in awe – there is one scene where during a critical moment, the Aurora Borealis is in the side of the shot.  The sun crests the Earth and sets again, the stars shine in the background – all while we watch a struggle to get to safety, to get home.  Gravity‘s special effects are amazing, and the music for the film by Steven Price draws you in.  By the end, it felt as though it was controlling your breath, and connected you to the character’s struggle.  One more thing of note, is that the science here is surprisingly pretty much accurate.  This is not a sci-fi film.  It feels very real.  And that’s what makes it so powerful.  In the end, a big budget film set in space is a human drama about finding a reason to live again.  And while it won’t be for everyone, it is the best movie I have seen of the year so far.

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Gravity Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

Gravity tells a gripping human story, taking place in one of the most beautiful yet dangerous places; space.  Astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are put in danger when litter from a demolished satellite destroys their space station.  During this perilous time, Dr. Ryan Stone comes to terms with her past, and has to learn to rely on faith.

Gravity is a beautiful film.  The opening shots have the Earth in the background, and a large hurricane can be seen from space, representing the storm that the astronauts must face.  There are many gorgeous shots of Earth and space in Gravity, but what really holds the film together is the emotional side of things.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are both really good.  However, much of the film is carried by Sandra Bullock, and she can really hold her own.  Dr. Ryan Stone is a complex character with a tragic past, yet she is also strong and can stand up for herself.  Gravity is a flawless movie that is compelling to watch.

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Gravity Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Right from the opening shots, Gravity has viewers completely immersed in a visually spectacular outer space world.  Equally dizzying, terrifying and beautiful, director Alfonso Cuarón’s film takes us on an emotional journey with the two main characters, astronauts Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney).

Both actors are excellent in their roles, with Sandra Bullock providing the intensely moving emotional heartbeat of the film.  Most of her scenes take place either from behind the visor of her space helmet, floating in space, or in the small confined compartments of a space station.  Her sense of panic, fear and eventually acceptance of the situation is incredible.  Sandra Bullock deserves any and all awards recognition that comes her way.

Along with the solid acting, it’s the visuals that carry Gravity.  Particularly in IMAX 3D, (which can be somewhat dizzying), it always feels like you are up there with the astronauts.  The cinematography is stunning.  The storyline is fairly straight forward.  Basically the space station the astronauts are working on gets damaged by flying debris, and the two who were working outside the unit end up untethered and floating away.  Their attempts to get back provide the suspense, however the simplicity of the storyline allows the visuals and the performances to carry the film.

This is one of those movies that stays with you long after leaving the theatre.  The closing scene can either be taken at face value or left open to personal interpretation, depending on your beliefs.  No matter what you take from the film, Gravity remains a visually and emotionally stunning experience.

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Gravity Review by Tony

**** (out of 4)

Gravity is an intense film of survival following the destruction of the International Space Station by debris from an exploded satellite. Only two people left outside in spacesuits manage to escape. Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is a seasoned astronaut on his last mission. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a mission specialist with no previous space experience. Cut off from all communication with oxygen and portable rocket fuel running out, their only chance is to reach a nearby spacecraft and hope its escape capsule is not too damaged to take them home.

It took several years before the technology was developed to realize the story by director Alfonso and his son Jonás Cuarón. The main challenge was to merge the CGI space sequences with the faces of the actors behind their masks. However exciting and suspenseful the story may be, with brilliant special effects and a minimalist orchestral score by Steven Price featuring crescendoes reminiscent of the last minute of “A Day in the Life,” it is the performances, mainly through breathing and voices, that make the film so moving, particularly Sandra Bullock’s.

Gravity would be an amazing film in any format, but for those who can afford the surcharge and are not susceptible to vertigo, the IMAX 3D version is really the best way to see it.

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Consensus: Anchored by an excellent performance from Sandra Bullock, Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is a visually stunning and emotionally powerful film set against the breathtaking expanse of space, that holds us in suspense throughout.  **** (Out of 4)

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