Warning: May contain spoilers.
Gravity is an amazing film. If you have yet to see it, please race to your nearest theatre now (in IMAX preferably, the bigger the screen the better). The only people who I’ll advise against watching Gravity are those with heart conditions. The film is riddled with sequences of blood-pumping, everything-is-exploding insanity, but even the “quiet” parts give a sense of anxiety, a sense of helplessness. For God’s sake, the characters are stranded in space! Not on an island, or a desert, or in the middle of the ocean. Space. The final frontier. Where no one can hear you scream.
One could say that Gravity is a disaster film in that the entire movie is one horrible event after another. One could say that Gravity is a story of survival and perseverance, something akin to Cast Away, minus a Wilson (among many other things). If you go even deeper there’s the story of accepting your past and moving on, being reborn if you will. Midway through the film there is a not so subtle shot of Sandra Bullock’s character in a fetal position to really drive home that idea of birth/rebirth.
The best films are those that get you completely immersed in their world, movies where you believe the actions and events that occur are believable without the viewer second-guessing it. Very few movies actually do this. These moments are completely subjective, of course. One could watch Sharknado and totally agree that a shark flying through a window is completely plausible, I suppose. But I digress.
Those moments in Gravity were few and far between. With the shot of Sandra floating into a fetal position, there was something too “in your face” about it for me. It was as if the director was saying, “Look! Look what she’s doing! Fetal position. Birth. Rebirth. Get it? Do you get it?” Whatever it was it took me out of the film for only a brief moment.
The only other moment that took me out of the film was a close up shot of Sandra’s face crying while her tears floated ever so gracefully off of her face. I saw the film in 3D so as you can guess, the floating teardrop was given the pop-out-of-the-screen treatment. This is not to say that they shouldn’t have made the teardrops float away because in zero gravity, tears don’t actually fall. Well, actually nothing falls. What I’m saying is that I’m not sure if seeing the teardrop float in 3D space as if I could touch it made me feel more sympathetic towards her character or not.
While on the topic of 3D, I do want to mention that I am not a big fan of it at all. 3D is usually just a huge money grab with little to no pay off. With that said, the stereoscopic work in Gravity is amazing and does what 3D is supposed to do: get you more immersed in the story. I’m tired of 3D being used as a gimmick, and while there were a few moments of gimmickry in the film (teardrop sequence mentioned above) the 3D work was tastefully done. I remember one part specifically where there was flying debris shooting at the screen. There was one piece of flying metal that shot into (out of?) the screen and actually made me blink.
As for the cinematography and visuals, there is not a single thing I could complain about. Gravity is a truly beautiful film. Remember watching BBC’s Planet Earth and being wowed by the many remarkable shots? Expect quite a few of those in Gravity.
The visual effects were also nothing but amazing. As you can imagine with a film that takes place in space, there is bound to be a plethora of visual effects. Framestore, the lead visual effects studio behind Gravity, did an amazing job. From what I've read, the only live-action elements onscreen are often just the actors’ faces. From watching the trailer you could then understand the effort put into this film.
In the CGI world, human animation is the hardest to pull off. We know what a person looks like when they move, how they walk, how joints should move, the little movements in the eyes – we know these things on a subconscious level. This is something very hard to emulate on a computer. So when watching a CGI human, more often than not, there is something off. While not discrediting the team’s work at all, I think one of the things that help is that most Earthlings have little to no knowledge of what movement looks like in zero gravity. While I am sure the team did a vast amount of R&D, we just have nothing to base on when watching movement in space. So for me, I was immersed whole-heartedly. It's not like I could accurately say, "Well hair wouldn't do that in space." Of course, someone with a bit more knowledge of zero-G say, an astrophysicist, might have a bit more to nitpick about.
As the credits rolled, I felt that I watched something different. With an estimated budget of $100,000,00, Gravity is clearly a big budget film. I have seen enough movies to know what big budget films look like, what they feel like. With Gravity however, there’s something about it that doesn’t feel big budget at all. Maybe it’s the high concept. Maybe because it doesn’t parade its star cast. Or maybe, especially in these days of sequalitis, it’s simply because I’ve never seen anything quite like it before.
Gravity was directed by Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) and stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Film editing by Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger.
Want more Gravity? Check these out:
• I didn't mention anything about the amazing sound design but you can read, watch, and listen about it here: The Sound of 'Gravity:' How Dolby Atmos Helped Create the Soundtrack to Space
• Check out these articles featuring Timothy Webber, the visual effects supervisor for Gravity. The lightbox rig they developed is astounding. Gravity VFX: Motion, Space, and Weightlessness and Gravity: vfx that's anything but down to earth
• As John Mayer fan, I put this together just for fun.