Monday, October 21, 2013

Gravity (2013)

Seen: In 3D at the Somerville Theatre in Davis Square.

Well, you know me. I only write about big-deal new releases after everyone has already talked it to death and moved on to the next thing. I just hate being relevant, it seems. Anyway. Gravity is about the terrifying, murderous reaches of space and how humans are not meant to be up there and we will be punished for even trying. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a scientist and inventor on her first trip out, learns this cold fact the hard way after her crew is slaughtered and her ship is torn apart by an unexpected hail of debris from a dismantled Russian satellite. Alone and running out of time as the pieces trace a path of destruction through multiple orbiting space stations and satellites, Ryan must somehow make it to a functioning shuttle that will get her back to earth. But she doesn't really know what she's doing and literally everything about space is trying to kill her.

So if I were to list my biggest fears, outer space would definitely be in the top 5. I am really scared of it, because did you know that it is REALLY. FUCKING. SCARY. I've known this intuitively for years, but Gravity really made my seemingly irrational fear a suddenly physical, visceral thing, so this was kind of a horror movie for me. Which I guess speaks to how effective it truly is. With its long, unbroken takes and sweeping cosmic vistas, the film is astonishingly immersive. I could feel the vast emptiness, the loneliness, and most of all the awe-inspiring beauty that is so deceptive, and can turn on you in an instant as the thin sheets of metal and plastic keeping you alive can be shattered so suddenly. We see (and hear) many shots from Ryan's point of view, and as a viewer it's hard not to become entrenched in her experiences as she fights tooth and nail to survive. As many have noted, the script is weak, with clunky plot devices and an embarrassingly un-subtle sentimentalism that's shoehorned in at random moments. But, for the most part, the all-encompassing, experiential nature of the film was enough to compell me and I could forgive its disappointing writing.

I've probably talked about it before, but I'm a fan of Sandra Bullock as an actress and have never understood the extreme negativity often directed at her by critics and Internet people. So I'm really happy she is in a film like this, a highly successful mainstream thriller (that's kinda sci-fi) with a female protagonist who's over 40, that's a cool thing. She gives a very dedicated, raw performance that ably communicates Ryan's simultaneous terror and resolution, completely carrying about two-thirds of the entire film and allowing the audience access into her strange and alarming situation. Hers is a scenario that few, if anyone, could relate to but Bullock's determined, no-frills approach encourages the illusion of "realness" as much as the breathtaking visual techniques. And Clooney's cute, too. I was taken out of the film a few times by the hackneyed dialogue and unnecessary insertions of backstory, so I can't say I'm as passionate in my response as some others I've read, but Gravity is truly a fascinating and rare experience.

4/5

Pair This Movie With: Clooney in space? Obviously I thought of Soderbergh's version of Solaris, which is pretty good.

3 comments:

  1. I really loved this movie. I can't say enough good things about it.

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  2. Oh, I'm one of those who can't stand Sandra Bullock but perhaps she'll prove me wrong :)

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  3. I was finding myself rather curious what you'd think of this, so this is definitely a welcome read. The scene where she's trying to unhook the tethers and you see the flash of debris zip past in the background still gives me shivers.

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