We've seen Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity and it is one of the best space films we have seen in ages. One part giant showcase of the cosmos and one part a deeply harrowing action thriller, Gravity is about to show Hollywood what a real white-knuckled audience looks like. And here is our spoiler-free first impression of the film.
Imagine the beauty of Avatar minus the bubble-bursting moments of straight fantasy. The first 13 minutes of space action is like watching a ballet of perfectly choreographed chaos. In just a few moments, the calm and beauty of space exploration transforms into a jet stream of destruction and horror. Wide shots flow into tight angles of panicked astronaut faces. Meanwhile, the big beautiful Earth spins in and out of view. It's a long, dizzying shot that slams a space helmet over the audience's head and demands that they just go with it.
But as horrifying as each scene is, it never stops being beautiful.
George Clooney & Sandra Bullock
Clooney's noticeably small part is literally a supporting role in every scope of the word. It was refreshing to see the marquee actor take a backseat and let Bullock go. But there's no space suit strong enough to contain his roguish charm and irresistible charisma. His character Matt Kowalsky, the most experienced member of the crew, starts off as the light in the distance of dark space. But slowly he helps focus the lens on around Bullock, and she just nails it.
Holy hell, Sandra Bullock. While The Blind Side is a lovely film with a whole lot of heart, it's an easy pitch to swing at for an actor. We did not know what we saw on screen was inside Bullock, but we are so resoundingly glad that none of the other actors courted for this role got the part. Guts is the word we kept circling back to when discussing her character, Dr. Ryan Stone. Stone has guts. Her natural progression from panicked scientist to leading lady moves slowly, but it flows.
In a few scenes, the character Stone shuts down, sans a drippy "I'm dying" monologue or panicked cry face. She's quiet, she's calm, and it's absolutely horrifying to witness. You're left searching the screen for something, anything that can save this character, help this character. But it's space, and there's nothing. The heavy weight of helplessness is crushing. However, it doesn't make you cry; it simply pushes you forward in your seat. Waiting, hoping, and listening to Sandra's breath.
We foresee Oscar noms for both actors.
It was wonderful to see a female protagonist against organic odds. There was no alien chasing her, no mustache-twirling boyfriend, no sleazy boss or ticking bomb that was going to blow up the Earth and her kid—it was Sandra Bullock versus the elements. The only thing she had were her wits and the sheer drive to survive. It was so damn refreshing to watch an intelligent female take center stage in a role that has been handed out to males over and over again. True a few of the feats she must tackle require a dollop of suspension of disbelief and a whole mountain of luck, but at least each struggle's end result is earned by character smarts and determination.
There's a surprise voice actor in this that will make you so very, very happy.
Oh dear god, the score. When shit is going down in space and there's no sound, you can kind of get lost in the madness of it all. Thank goodness for Steven Price's score, which has a bass line so ominous after hearing it for the third time it transforms into Jaws-like status.
The Verdict: This movie must be seen in the theater. Do not wait.