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Gravity: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet Review

Gravity (2013) movie poster Gravity

Theatrical Release: October 4, 2013 / Running Time: 91 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

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

Cast: Sandra Bullock (Dr. 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)
Gravity is one of DVDizzy.com's Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).Gravity ranks 52nd in our list of the Top 100 Movies of the Half-Decade (2010-2014).

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Between Elysium, Oblivion, and Star Trek Into Darkness, 2013 was something of a banner year for science fiction.
But the film that stood out over all of those was Gravity, the only one in the batch to compete for more than technical awards.

In his first narrative feature since 2006's Children of Men, Alfonso Cuarón directed this story of space survival and co-wrote it with his son Jonás. During a routine mission, two American astronauts find themselves bombarded with debris from a destroyed satellite. Cool veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and hospital-seasoned newbie Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) find their communication down, their colleague 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.

Rookie astronaut Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) clings to a space station for life in "Gravity."

That's about all the plot synopsis Gravity requires and you gather as much from the trailer and TV ads. 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. To experience it on anything less than a huge screen inevitably diminishes some of its considerable splendor. However, as the serious Best Picture candidacy suggests, this is more than mere spectacle, so it remains engaging even on your television.

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 simulation of Zero-G 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 Jonás' 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.

Calm veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) tethers himself to Ryan Stone.

One of Gravity's greatest feats is that it is 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 experience no doubt also gained from being shown in IMAX 3D, a format that magnified the powerful visuals and amplified the already at times piercing sound design.

Gravity is slim narratively, which explains why it is the only one of 2013's leading nominees and one of the rare films ever considered a serious Best Picture contender without a screenplay nod. The minimal characters aren't given the strongest of dialogue either. That doesn't much matter though because the film still manages to be dramatically potent in addition to technically spectacular. Gravity is harrowing on occasion, like a horror movie in space, its mix of claustrophobia and the unnamed opposite of it producing chills.

The film offers quite a different experience at home than it does on the big screen, but many of its achievements remain intact and worthy of admiration. Impressively, the film does not cheat science, upholding the fact that no sound is heard in outer space. That design allows it to lean heavily on Steven Price's powerful, riveting score. The first-rate visual effects aid the film's cinematography and editing, two of numerous Oscars Gravity is expected to win next week. The elder Cuarón does a remarkable job of making the film feel seamless, using hardly any cuts for much of the premise-establishing opening twenty minutes.

Tying American Hustle for lead of the pack with ten nominations, Gravity seems certain to come home from Oscar night more decorated than any other film, thanks to its technical excellence. But it's important to note one major creative nomination: Sandra Bullock's Best Actress nomination. Bullock's enduring career qualifies as a surprise that would have been tough to predict at numerous points since Speed made her a star. And yet, five months shy of 50, she is enjoying her strongest stretch to date.

An instance of acclaim and interest aligning, Gravity arrived a year later than scheduled and emerged as one of 2013's biggest films for critics and moviegoers alike. It just passed Monsters University for 6th place for the year domestically. Boosted by global appeal, the film has grossed over $700 million worldwide, just short of Katniss, Iron Man and Gru's totals but light years ahead of the rest of the award-recognized fare.

Staying close to timing they employed on last year's Best Picture winner Argo, Warner Bros. brings Gravity to home video on Tuesday, five days before the Oscars put an end to another award season and another year of cinema. Gravity is available in a two-disc special edition DVD, a two-disc Blu-ray + DVD combo pack, and the three-disc set reviewed here consisting of Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD. All three editions include Warner's standard Digital HD UltraViolet presentation of the film.

Gravity: Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital HD UltraViolet combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray 3D, Blu-ray & DVD Details

2.40:1 Widescreen (DVD Anamorphic)
Blu-rays: 5.1 DTS-HD MA (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French, Spanish, Portuguese);
DVD: Dolby Digital 5.1 (English, French, Spanish)
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish; Blu-rays only: Portuguese
DVD Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled
Release Date: February 25, 2014
Three single-sided, dual-layered discs (2 BD-50s & 1 DVD-9)
Suggested Retail Price: $44.95
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Lenticular Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as Blu-ray combo pack ($35.99 SRP), Two-Disc Special Edition DVD ($28.98 SRP) and Amazon Instant Video


Gravity looks every bit as outstanding in high definition as you hope and assume it will. The 2.40:1 video is flawless and though this is a film that rewards large screens, the immaculate element, abundance of detail, and satisfactory sharpness should be apparent on just about any TV.

The default 5.1 DTS-HD master audio makes clear why this film is seen as the one to beat in the Oscars' sound categories. The mix gets very loud at times and quiet at others. Consistently, its mix of elements is even and immersive.

Alfonso Cuarón directs a suspended Sandra Bullock on a shoot that required imagination and an assortment of practical and digital effects. LED light panels and robotic cameras contribute to "Gravity"'s dazzlingly versatile and realistic vision of outer space.


Kicking off the standard Blu-ray's all-HD nearly three hours of extras is "Gravity: Mission Control" (1:46:26), a nine-part, feature-length making-of documentary.
This exhaustive and polished film covers all aspects of the film chronologically, from hatching the story to bringing it to life with such innovations as robotic cameras and LED light boxes. Like the production, the documentary sweats the nitty-gritty, from creating realistic visor reflections and using rigs to simulate zero gravity to getting everything synchronized and depicting space exploration accurately. While it's unlikely anyone comes away from this hungry to learn more, the extras don't end there.

Next up come five Shot Breakdowns (36:48), which as you can guess deconstruct some of the film's more effects-intensive shots. These technical shorts answer some of the many times viewers will wonder "How did they do that?!", revealing a mix of state-of-the-art practical and digital illusions.

The Ed Harris-narrated documentary short "Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space" reveals space junk is no fictional plot device. Aningaaq (Orto Igantiussen) is the remote Eskimo who picks up Ryan Stone's space transmissions.

Narrated by Ed Harris, the documentary "Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space" (22:28)
turns our attention to the real topic that drives the plot: man-made debris in space. Scientists discuss the long-term and increasingly dangerous problem of dead satellites and rocket remnants currently in orbit as well as raising ideas for combatting it. More high-minded than the typical bonus feature, it's a fitting inclusion and one that makes use of Gravity clips and score.

The short Aningaaq (6:53) follows. Previously released online and fruitlessly screened for Oscar consideration, this interesting companion piece depicts the other side of Ryan's unlikely call: an Eskimo (Orto Igantiussen) with dogs and his own mortal dilemma. It's a great idea that casts one of the film's best scenes in new light. You can also watch the short prefaced by a 3-minute, 17-second introduction by the short's writer/director/editor Jonás Cuarón and his father, who explain shooting it in two days in a remote part of Greenland.

The final extra, "Film Festivals", is oddly nothing more than a page displaying the fourteen international festivals at which the film played.

Since the DVD included here is the first of the two-disc edition sold separately, it doesn't get much in the way of bonus features. Still, it has perhaps the most entertaining bonus: Aningaaq and its introduction.

The Blu-ray opens with an UltraViolet promo and the Her trailer. To them, the DVD adds trailers for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug and Prisoners.

The rare Warner movie to get an animated menu these days, Gravity is treated to a looped 30-second montage of clips that start slow and grow exciting. The DVD even uses film imagery to enliven the secondary menus. The Blu-rays do not support bookmarks but they do resume unfinished playback of anything. Pop-up menus regrettably only work over the film, but the list of extras fills the screen with a sensible overlay.

A single-sided insert providing your code and directions for redeeming the complementary Digital HD UltraViolet joins the three plainly-labeled discs inside a keepcase that's topped with a lenticular-faced slipcover.

Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) takes a look at Earth, a planet she desperately would like to return to alive in "Gravity."


The most technically impressive and innovative movie of 2013, Gravity is also one of last year's better films overall. More experience than narrative, this space adventure nonetheless stands strong dramatically, holding your interest not only with breathtaking visuals and sound effects but with effective lean storytelling and a commanding lead performance.

All things considered, this is one of the most exciting releases around, wielding plenty of appeal for genre enthusiasts, home theater geeks, and plain old film lovers. Warner's Blu-ray 3D combo pack is easy to recommend, with its phenomenal feature presentation and many hearty bonus features, not to mention this is the rare film that definitely benefits from 3D. Gravity may not be at the very top of my 2013 list, but it's looking like the more desirable winner of the two films widely perceived as Best Picture frontrunners.

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Related Reviews:
Best Picture Nominees: Captain PhillipsDallas Buyers ClubNebraskaAmerican HustleThe Wolf of Wall StreetHer
Additional Oscar Competition: Blue JasmineStar Trek Into DarknessIron Man 3The Lone Ranger
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
Technical Oscar Dominance: TitanicHugoAvatar | Survival: 127 HoursBuried
Space: Space Junk 3DWALL-E2001: A Space OdysseySunshineIn the Shadow of the Moon
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron: Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban | 2013 Sci-Fi: Thor: The Dark WorldOblivionWorld War ZElysium

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Reviewed February 24, 2014.

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