Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013): UK | USA

Reviewed by Jackson Davis. Viewed at the Santa Barbara Film Festival.

Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity was originally released to mountains of praise. It was well deserved, as the movie was, and still is both technically and visually impressive. I saw Gravity in theaters shortly after launch in Fall of 2013, and my opinion hasn’t changed much since then. This movie is a mixed bag, with several flaws that need to be addressed.

Staring with the good, the movie is a visual masterpiece. The opening 10 minutes of the film is a long uncut shot, something director Alfonso Cuarón has become accustomed to. The amount of detail this movie achieved is simply outstanding, even going as far as having astronauts with a camera and boom mic (which can be seen in the image above) digitally added in to some helmet reflections in an attempt to add to the ‘realism’ of the film. Unlike my first screening, I was able to view Gravity is 3D, and it was spectacular. Many recent 3D films don’t hold a candle to what Cuarón achieved. The sense of scale it creates between the small, insignificant astronauts, and the Earth behind them, or the claustrophobic feeling it invokes when inside the International Space Station, are simply mind-blowing, and I’ve yet to come across another film that has felt even remotely comparable to the use of 3D that Gravity achieved.

But for what this film excels at in the technical department, it lacks in its writing and characters. I want to quickly preface this by saying I have nothing against Sandra Bullock or George Clooney. They both are fantastic actors and have done outstanding work in their field. That said, they each had their fair share of problems for me. For starters, Bullock’s portrayal never felt right. She always seemed so disconnected and it wasn’t very convincing. It’s not a poor performance by any stretch of the imagination, but her acting style did not fit the role. As for Clooney, despite appearing very little, the Clooney-Charm™ felt very out of place and distracting, and was constantly reminding me I was still watching a movie.

In regards to the story, while enjoyable on a surface level, the sheer amount of actions taken by Bullock’s character Dr. Ryan Stone that had me screaming at her in my head were astonishing. I can suspend my disbelief enough to try to believe a story and its characters, but having a character fumble or make a mistake that puts them in danger at every single opportunity is a bit much.

The film’s main intention is to pull you into a stunning physical and visual experience, and deserves tremendous credit for it.Gravity is certainly a breathtaking film, with a few shortcomings holing it back.

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