I knew I was breathing abnormally hard. My legs shook furiously and uncontrollably throughout the brisk 90 minute running time. And my hands, dripping in cold sweat, looked for anything to grab hold of. It took a slight nudge to pull my eyes from the screen as the credits rolled. And by the time I limped out of my seat, my clothes soaked in nervous, anxiety-fueled perspiration, I felt as if I had run a marathon in 120 degree weather with a deranged truck driver chasing me the entire time.
And it was the best damn time I’ve spent at the movies all year.
It doesn’t take long to be completely enthralled in director Alfonso Cuarón‘s bold and epic space odyssey of a film that is Gravity. The many tracking shots (mostly done digitally simply due to their extreme complexity) gracefully glide through space with an elegance and precision that can rarely be found in today’s major Hollywood productions.
The most memorable and purely thrilling of these being the first 13 minutes of the picture. But that in no way is a knock on any of the shots after it. On the contrary, Cuarón seems hellbent on topping himself with every shift in focus, every pan left or right or every cut (however rare) he does take. You simply will not forget the images the Mexican-born director and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki present.
And you’ll never want to either.
By now, you know things for George Clooney‘s Dr. Matt Kowalski and Sandra Bullock‘s Dr. Ryan Stone don’t go well just by the trailers. And things only get worse from then on. The many set pieces in Gravity (its amazing how many memorable little vignettes of terror and excitement Cuarón fits in this short little movie) are some of the most unique instances of filmmaking 2013 has to offer. They’re huge and fantastical and largely devoid of headache inducing noise (this, an artistic representation of the silent blackness of space).
Bullock is revelatory here. She moves the picture along with a surprising amount of heart and sadness and physicality that you would never expect from such a petite frame as her’s. But she pulls it off handily. Clooney is as charming as ever and Ed Harris supplies a fun little audio cameo as Mission Control (he does have that kind of voice that just sounds perfect going through radio into the headset of an astronaut).
The music associated with Jaws became synonymous with sharks and deadly waters and Steven Price’s score for Gravity will likely do the same thing for space. When the eerie and brooding electronic growl of Price’s synths begins boiling under the silent abyss of space, a number of things are on the horizon and all of them are bad for Stone and Kowalski.
Very much resembling one of the many memorable images in Gravity, experiencing this film, in many ways, is like being born again. Movies in 2013 have become so damned predictable and one dimensional, it’s sometimes becomes hard to have faith that a major motion picture will not only meet high expectations, but exceed and expand on them.
Sure, the 3-D is phenomenal (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise), but its the story Lubezki’s images and Cuarón’s ever mobile camera tell that sets Gravity apart from anything in theaters today. The story told through Cuarón’s and his son, Jonas’, script however is a little less dynamic, but it serves its purpose and never drags and has plenty of character within its pages. Gravity is a beacon of hope that great movies are alive and well in 2013.
Gravity works as science fiction, horror, drama and even some genuine earned (and necessary) comedy.
Here’s hoping Cuarón doesn’t take another extended hiatus between projects. Children of Men established Cuarón as a director with a fine eye for thrilling visuals and creative camerawork. Gravity expands on every notion birthed in that 2006 film; it marks Cuarón’s status as a visionary director. He is one with stories to tell with images that will sear themselves into your mind and ideas that embed themselves deep within the cavities of the brain for days, months and, confidently, years after you’ve first experienced it.
The second it was over, I couldn’t wait to see it again. If not to count out exactly how many visible cuts there are in the film, then just to marvel at it and let its immense and undeniable beauty cascade over me just one more time.
There simply is nothing like Gravity.