directed by Alfonso Cuaron
(Warner Bros., 2013)

I've decided against becoming an astronaut. That said, I loved this movie.

Gravity is a mindblowing, awesome film. The pacing, soundtrack and visuals are perfect, combining to form a space thriller of exceptional quality that magnificently and realistically recreates the majesty of space.

From its opening minutes, in which the main characters are immediately plunged into a life-threatening situation, to the last second, Gravity does not slow its pace for even one moment. The excruciating tension that the unfolding disaster creates leaves you emotionally and physically spent. Mostly, but not strictly, an action-adventure film, the movie's attempts at philosophical content are well-intentioned if a bit whimsical. Overall, though, Gravity isn't designed to ask too many deep questions and so doesn't truly go meta.

It's the manner in which the movie presents its points, with such awe-inspiring effects and eye-popping vistas, that makes it a cinematic marvel. For 90 minutes, Cuaron manages to make viewers wonder if they had what it takes to survive a seemingly impossible situation, allowing the power of the situation to drive the story. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney do a more than credible job as astronauts caught in the path of a debris storm that disables their station and forces them into making an unscheduled return trip to Earth via a series of satellite and International Space Station hopping. Underneath the marvelous special effects are characters with heart, whose humanity grounds the movie and makes evident the resiliency of their spirits as they call up reserves of strength they did not know they possessed. Though the characters are drawn with rather broad strokes, their bravery is still moving, making these and other shortcomings easy to bear.

Some might consider certain sequences, such as moments of low-oxygen-induced, panic-charged "visions," to be cinematic gimmickry, but emotionally charged revelations in situations of extreme danger are not at all uncommon, and since Bullock's character is being pushed beyond the limits of human endurance, a bit of metaphorical license is to be expected. The narrative is playing out on the edges of a life-and-death experience while simultaneously showcasing the inspiring nature of the human will, of the need to live on no matter how great the danger. The characters' experiences work out just fine in the context of displaying the reasons we fight that kind of danger, even when all else seems lost. You believe in what you need to, in order to get the job done.

Deeply immersive, technically brilliant, and impressively human, Gravity is not just an epic, it's a whole new classic, one of the best sci-fi thrillers ever made, right up there with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Alien and Moon. It truly raises the bar. Not to be missed.

review by
Mary Harvey

4 January 2014

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