Gravity (2013)

108325_galStarring: George Clooney, Sandra Bullock, Ed Harris

Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

PG-13. 91 mins

An impressive technical feat that is perhaps the closest (most of us) will ever be to experiencing deep space. Both fantastical and nightmarish, Gravity takes the viewer on a seemingly routine space walk in which Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) suddenly find themselves alone after their shuttle is destroyed by the debris from a Russian satellite. The film, which relies on situational drama rather than a character-driven story, is a marvel of modern filmmaking and quite a treat in 3D. While Clooney and Bullock bring some relatability and the odd joke to alleviate the tension, any depth here is lost in the poorly written dialogue. While there is the theme of overcoming adversity no matter how desperate and depleted you may feel, there isn’t much *storytelling* going on here. There’s an attempt at backstory for Bullock’s character but it only adds to the hopeless confusion of the entire journey. Perhaps there could have been some more storytelling if Cuarón wasn’t so preoccupied with throwing almost every conceivable obstacle at the characters on their desperate voyage home. Frankly, it becomes too much and as immersive as the experience is, it verges on laughable when one character is perhaps the most unlucky person known to mankind.

While the film can be commended for invoking primal fear in a landscape we may never experience, Gravity is, for the most part, spectacle with little substance. Cuarón & Co. spin the audience around this amusement park ride of a movie until we become so sick that there is barely time to absorb much of anything or to actually feel what deadly consequences could be in store for these characters. Not to mention the fact that, after sitting through countless trailers for male-dominated stories, my excitement over a strong female protagonist is quickly marred by the fact that Dr. Stone rarely has a clue of what she is doing. She seems to succeed by chance and the aid of a cocky – no matter how serious the situation – male counterpart. And let’s not forget that Bullock spends the final third of the film essentially floating around in her underwear – a choice that, I would imagine, might not have been made had a man been cast in her role. Finally, there’s even a dreadful cliche in that the Russians are to blame for this catastrophe, though Kowalsky is quick to mention that *at least* they left some vodka behind… I find myself missing the Cuarón who brought such nuance to the Harry Potter series and who brought such other marvels as Children of Men and A Little Princess.

Overall, I can’t deny the dazzling features of this film; the convincing weightlessness and intense physicality are grand achievements, but an opportunity was missed here. Gravity displays astounding special effects, but it cannot compare to the other sci-fi efforts (Apollo 13, Sunshine, 2001: A Space Odyssey) that managed to achieve both technical glory and truly affecting cinema.

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