Had planned to post excerpts from several reviews — but it seems nobody is able to keep their mouth shut about plot twists. Go read Justin Chang at Variety at your own risk. He blurts out a dozen things you’ll wish you didn’t know. No wonder so many people in Hollywood have forgotten how to enjoy movies. Most of the pleasures gets ruined by clumsy critics before people have a chance to see for themselves. Todd McCarthy understands how to talk about a film without storytelling the whole plot, so here’s part of his review from THR.
George Clooney and Sandra Bullock star as astronauts in Alfonso Cuaron’s jaw-dropping space thriller.
At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise. Not at all a science fiction film in the conventional sense, Alfonso Cuaron’s first feature in seven years has no aliens, space ship battles or dystopian societies, just the intimate spectacle of a man and a woman trying to cope in the most hostile possible environment across a very tight 90 minutes. World premiered at the Venice Film Festival, with Telluride showings following quickly on its heels, this Warner Bros. release is smart but not arty, dramatically straightforward but so dazzlingly told as to make it a benchmark in its field. Graced by exemplary 3D work and bound to look great in IMAX, the film seems set to soar commercially around the world.
…Before Cuaron even resorts to his first cut, the peril jacks way up with word of approaching space debris, the result of a chain reaction from the Russians having shot down one of their own satellites. Suddenly and shockingly, the empty space is filled with a metallic torrent from which only dumb luck can save the exposed space travelers. In this terrifying interlude, the ship is damaged and Stone, her umbilical cord severed, tumbles toward oblivion.
Here, as elsewhere in the film, Cuaron coils the tension and visceral impact of key scenes via a startling mix of the objective and subjective, and the extreme contrast between the stillness of empty space and the abrupt arrival of terrible threats. This is achieved by switching from the eerie electronic heaves of Steven Price’s insidiously effective score to total silence; from violent physical action to tight shots of Stone’s face, her breath visible on the inside of her mask and her nervous inhaling and exhaling the only sounds to be heard; from the beauty of a green, blue and tan planet on one side and the depths of infinite darkness on the other; from the awe of the cosmic to the terror of nothingness, from the warmth of the sun to the coldness of eternal limbo…
We’ll skip a paragraph here that I consider to be a spoiler. (Don’t anybody ask me ask why because the more I refuse to answer the closer to a spoiler it will be).
…No monsters pop out baring scary teeth, only adverse circumstances of such extremity that they place Gravity alongside Life of Pi and J.C. Chandor’s contemporaneous All Is Lost as a survival tale requiring a heroically concentrated form of human resilience. Those two films involve the peril of oceans rather than space, but then Gravity, with its characters all suited up and their heads enclosed in helmets, sometimes almost seems like it’s taking place under water — except that you can see more clearly.
And seeing is what it’s mostly about here, seeing space as if the film was actually shot there. It’s a wonderful cinematic jolt to watch this film for the first time, as it looks as if it had been filmed, as it were, on location. Given the brief running time, it will be tempting for many to return for second and third visits just to take it all in again, to absorb all Cuaron and his team of exemplary collaborators have done. The reliably brilliant cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who has shot all but one of the director’s features, has outdone himself here with images of astonishing clarity that, given the finesse of the 3D here, you practically feel you could step (or float) into. Andy Nicholson’s production design is mainly devoted to creating multiple much-lived-in space ships so battered and abused they resemble banged-up old cars, while Tim Webber’s peerless special effects work never has a CGI look.