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Gravity Movie Review

Gravity: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + UltraViolet combo pack cover art
Gravity is now available on home vieo. Read our review of the Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD combo pack.

Gravity (2013) movie poster Gravity

Theatrical Release: October 4, 2013 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Alfonso Cuarón / Writers: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón

Cast: Sandra Bullock (Ryan Stone), George Clooney (Matt Kowalski), Ed Harris (Mission Control Voice), Orto Igantiussen (Aningaaq Voice), Phaldut Sharma (Shariff Voice), Amy Warren (Explorer Captain Voice), Basher Savage (Russian Space Station Captain Voice)

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Between Elysium, Oblivion, and Star Trek Into Darkness, 2013 has been a banner year for science fiction.
Gravity adds to that encouraging trend and it's the first of that batch with the potential to compete for more than technical awards.

In his first narrative feature since 2006's Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón co-wrote and directed this story of space survival. During a routine mission, two American astronauts find themselves bombarded with debris from a satellite. Cool veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and hospital-seasoned newbie Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) find their communication down, their colleagues killed, and their return vehicle suddenly out of commission. They put their heads together and, via a long tether, their bodies too. With their oxygen supply quickly depleting and no link whatsoever to the rest of civilization, they set their sights on a nearby Russian space station.

Astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) works in full view of planet Earth in Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity."

That's about all the plot synopsis Gravity requires and you gather as much from the trailer and TV spots. This is a film that is light on story and heavy on atmosphere. It's a film you are not meant just to see, but to experience. And to experience it on anything less than a big screen inevitably will diminish some of its considerable splendor. Virtually the entire 90-minute runtime is spent in outer space, which seems like a cinema record. Instead of growing tiresome, that setting keeps you on edge, aware of the distance separating our characters from the rest of the world and heightening the feel of helplessness.

Space has not been depicted before at such length, nor has it been portrayed with such detail and realism. You know enough to know that Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were not actually put in orbit and asked to survive explosions and space debris traveling at 20,000 miles per hour, but your eyes beg to differ. Undoubtedly, this was all shot on green screen sets, but all the details -- e.g. the convincing weightlessness, the helmet reflections of Earth -- look remarkably convincing. It's easy to suspend disbelief when faced with such believable images. What's important is that Cuarón never asks his striking images to tell the story for him. For that, he presents humanity, relying heavily on good, old-fashioned acting and the kind where the only two actors seen up close and alive must use their imagination, not yet having the privilege of seeing the breathtaking environments added in post-production.

I haven't seen much of Cuarón's prior work and in fact, there hasn't been all that much to see. His lone contribution to the Harry Potter series (2004's Prisoner of Azkaban) represented one of the high marks of that fantasy franchise and he achieved it by streamlining the text and keeping the heroes focal and human. It's almost a complete opposite approach to storytelling from Cuarón's fellow accomplished Mexican Hollywood visionary, Guillermo del Toro, who really seems to love production design and tangible fantasy. With Gravity, Cuarón eliminates all distractions to pit the human spirit against the galaxy's least forgivable survivable elements. His and his son Jonas' attempts to humanize Ryan and Matt are transparent, but effective. These are characters who don't just not to want to die, they want to live, no matter the emotional baggage awaiting them back home.

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) tries to take small breaths to conserve her dwindling oxygen supply in Alfonso Cuarón's "Gravity."

One of Gravity's greatest feats is that it actually appears to be the rare film to put 3D to worthwhile use. The settings call for layers of depth and the film conveys them with purpose. An often seen floating pen serves as a constant reminder that Earth's rules don't apply up here.
The film is also being shown in IMAX 3D, magnifying the powerful visuals and amplifying the already at times piercing sound design.

A visual effects Oscar nomination seems like a lock and the film could also drift into one or both of the sound categories. And though this is probably not Best Picture material (assuming there's enough of that to come in the year's final three months), female roles of substance are so hard to come by that 2009 winner Bullock could easily wind up cracking the Best Actress field that Cate Blanchett is currently expected to lead. Bullock's enduring career qualifies as something of a surprise that would have been tough to predict at numerous points since Speed made her a star. And yet, less than a year away from 50, she is enjoying perhaps her strongest stretch to date, even if critical acclaim and public interest hasn't always aligned.

Gravity already seems certain to win critics' approval and it figures to be a much bigger commercial draw than Clooney's last time in space, Steven Soderbergh's sleepy Solaris remake. As this release unofficially kicks off the Oscar season, the film has a long way to go to remain a contender, but only one week longer than Argo endured last year to clean up.

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Related Reviews:
2013 Sci-Fi: GravityOblivionElysiumStar Trek Into DarknessWorld War ZIron Man 3
Sandra Bullock: The ProposalExtremely Loud & Incredibly ClosePremonitionFire on the Amazon
George Clooney: The DescendantsThe Ides of MarchThe Men Who Stare at GoatsOcean's ThirteenFantastic Mr. Fox
Space: Space Junk 3DWALL-E2001: A Space OdysseySunshineIn the Shadow of the Moon

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Reviewed October 4, 2013.

Text copyright 2013 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2013 Warner Bros. Pictures, Esperanto FilmojProdukato, and Heyday Films Productions. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.