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It’s rare that a movie can command your attention, emotion, and respect as much as Gravity does. Planet Earth, stunningly shot in expansive detail, serves as a beautiful omnipresence almost always looming in the background throughout the film. It doubles both as an impossible goal for lost in space Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) to reach, and a constant reminder that the film does not take place in a realm of possibilities as we know them. Gravity abandons us and its small number of characters in a world far from our own, forcing the characters (and through immersive and absorbing emotional extension, the audience) to survive.
The film’s weightless physics makes every sequence look like a piece of flowing cinematic choreography, intricately imagined and executed by director Alfonso Cuarón. The camera breaks as little as possible, instead bobbing through space with graceful fluidity for up to twenty uninterrupted minutes. Cuarón’s camera movement alone makes the film stand out visually, but even greater are the film’s special effects. As 3D shares (and arguably quality) rapidly decline in the US, Gravity breaks the trend by producing something that cannot be properly experienced without it. Images from the film lingered in my mind days after seeing it. Gravity is a visual masterpiece without any stretch of the imagination.
The film’s concept is refreshingly simple, but still packs its 91-minute run time with action. Stone and her space-diving companions (including George Clooney’s wonderful Matt Kowalski) receive transmissions reporting the explosion of a nearby Russian satellite while working on the Hubble Space Telescope, and the debris is orbiting toward them. Abort mission. The debris hits like a tornado of glass, separating Stone and Kowalski from the telescope. Only Kowalski’s pressurized air jetpack keeps them from spinning into endless space, but even that’s limited on fuel.
Setting the film in space meant the setting and action was, at times, literally nothing. Bullock and Clooney prove that their acting and chemistry is enough to fill a void as big as the universe, literally. The two actors skate a thin line between melodramatic and sincere, and help in no small part transcend the film to what it is. Some of the film’s most devastating shots come when the film shortly puts aside its stunning effects and focuses on Bullock’s heart wrenching performance. It’s worth noting that, even amidst sequences of undeniable visual awe, Cuarón chooses to extensively focus on the emotion in Bullock’s eyes.
Gravity burns an impression that will last days, maybe weeks after seeing it. Some events depict physics in a way that is borderline impossible to happen. All is forgiven when the final product is as hauntingly beautiful as Gravity. There are movies we enjoy while they’re in theaters, and then there are movies that we remember for years. Gravity is definitely in the second category.