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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Gravity Review: Slipping the Surly Bonds of Hype

I want call this a science fiction epic, but I'm not sure that applies. I mean it technically is fiction, and about science, but there's nothing remotely fantastical about it. This could happen, we have the technology. In that sense a movie about a mining disaster is sci-fi. But enough abut that crap, I'm here to shout what you've already heard everywhere else, that gravity is amazing. That somewhere between 2001 and Die Hard is a masterpiece of dramatic tension and Newtonian physics. That you should choose to eat dinner afterwards, and that all the technical Oscars this year belong to it.

You will believe you're trapped in space. There wasn't a single moment I doubted where I was. The fact this movie used so much green screen you could make the argument it was an animated film is astonishing. You need to see it in IMAX, but if that's too rich for your blood, the 2D theater experience is almost just as good. That's right, I've seen it twice, it's that unique. That's the best part about Gravity, you've never truly seen anything like it. It's slavish commitment to the awkward physics of anti-gravity is absolute. You feel just as helpless as Dr. Stone, which reminds me of the other surprising thing about the film.

I would have bet money years ago that I'd never see an award caliber performance form Sandra Bullock. Don't get me wrong, I love her to pieces, and I've paid good money for her films good and bad. But I see her getting another Oscar for this. Her character progression is phenomenal. A realistic reaction to the petrifying death sentence of her situation with a bad-ass streak that only get's stronger with time. Gravity's "all is lost" moment is hard to get a bead on at first because it seems like every other scene is an "all is lost" moment. But you'll know it when you see it, it's a performance so quietly heartbreaking, it earns floating anti-gravity tears. That's amazing, because that's ridiculous.

But I do have a bone to pick with wardrobe. I know this was an expensive movie to make and I don't want to wade into the gender politics required to make an $80 million movie with a female lead. I just don't think Bullock pulling a "Ripley" was necessary. Sure Cuaron does his damnedest to make it a visually metaphorical scene, but a panty shot is a panty shot and it's on the wrong side of voyeuristic.

You just want to reach through the screen and give her a hug.
That's a nit pick, I'll admit it, I'm usually the last person to complain about Sandra Bullock's legs. But even so, it's an easy scene to put out of your mind for the rest of the roller coaster ride. And buddy? It's intense. Even if you groan through all the banter and character development (Stone's back story is pretty clunky) the action beats and oxygen based ticking clocks are the new high water marks of dramatic tension on film. I've never heard an entire audience collectively gasp for breath before... it was priceless. If you're sick of the deafening cacophony of modern action scenes, know that the best bits of gravity take place in almost total silence. It's terrifying.

So do yourself a favor and dig your fingernails into an armrest for 90 minutes. This is the kind of film making that makes the tide rise. The kind of movie that makes everyone in the business try a little harder. It may not have the ponderous atmosphere of Kubrick's masterpiece, but I assure you he's beaming in his grave all the same.

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