I remember when I was younger and we went to an amusement park for the day. In one part of the park they had a motion simulator based on the movie Days of Thunder. Although the movie is not the high point of Tom Cruise’s career the way they took some of the race footage and melded it with moving seats and awesome sound the park took a movie and made it a ride. I left this ride thinking that it was an awesome idea and would love to see more rides like that. Many years later Gravity comes along and gives me a movie that can be classified as a ride by itself, without the need for moving seats.
Gravity is the newest movie by wonder director Alfonso Cuaron and is my worst fear come to life. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a medical doctor and newly trained astronaut out on a space walk to work on her experiment. When veteran astronaut and all around cool guy Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) gets a frantic message from Mission Control to abort the walk and get in the shuttle do to space debris coming their way, all hell breaks loose. Ryan and Matt lose their shuttle and are drifting in the unforgiving void of space with little hope of rescue except for what they can do for themselves.
This is one of the best films I have seen this year and the best way to see this is in the biggest theater with the best sound. While I love a lot of small character films it is sometimes great to see well made spectacles that take full advantage of the tolls that a director has and you can tell that this is exactly what Cuaron does. Starting with a 10-15 minute one shot take of the beauty of space and to the initial arm gripping run in with the debris, this movie grabbed my attention from the first frame and never let go. Like I previously said, the movie is a ride and most people will be gripping their armrests or forgetting to breathe in many parts of this film, it is that intense.
While many people have been comparing this film to Avatar in the way that someone finally did 3-D right, I think a much better movie to compare it to would be The Matrix. While Avatar made billions of dollars because people loved the 3-D, it wasn’t much of an industry changer because the movie was just a new version of Dances with Wolves gussied up in Sci-Fi trappings. In comparison, when The Matrix came out it changed the face of action movies for the next decade (for better or worse). I remember sitting in the theater the first time I saw The Matrix and was blown away by the effects and the way the action was shot. I knew I saw a game changer at that time and I was 100% correct. I got the same feeling with Gravity. The way the movie moves, the effects, the way Cuaronso films felt totally fresh and new and there were many times I thought to myself how did they do that?!
Gravity will just keep making money in the theater and have long legs because Cuaron made a film that people will tell their friends that they have to see in the theater and the ride will continue to go all fall.
While I have given a lot of the credit of the movie to Cuaron, which is rightly so, Sandra Bullock also gives her best in her role and gives the audience a character you want to cheer for. The story is thin and there is not much character building in the film. Other than a few mentions of a dead child you know nothing of Ryan or her life and this is one time when the baggage a star brings to the movie helps. Without much of a character base, the audience is rooting for Sandy to survive as much as her character. Thanks to 20 years of roles from her, we know Bullock as the cute, friendly person you would want for a wife or a best friend. This “baggage” helps us fill in the gaps for her character and root for one of America’s sweethearts. This is not slighting what Bullock did in the film because she conveys the feelings of being scared, helpless, ready to give up and ready to fight really well and much like Tom Hanks in Castaway, Bullock is able to carry a film almost singularly with ease.
Yet, I think the type of actress Bullock is also helped us empathize with Ryan. Bullock is cute but not drop dead sexy, a klutz much more often that an action hero and a person who would believably be over her head in these situations. If the movie would have cast their first choice, Angelina Jolie, her action background would make her plight unbelievable, you would be waiting for her to punch the space debris and also stop an alien invasion while trying to get home. While Bullock was not the first choice for this movie, I believe she was definitely the right choice.
Gravity is amazing, tense, mind blowing action spectacle that is the type of movie that isn’t done right nearly enough. Thanks to the behind the camera wizardry from Cauron and crew and a very human performance by Bullock Gravity is not a movie that should be missed in the theater.
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron.
Screenplay written by Alfonso and Jonas Cuaron.
Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.