Gravity changes the cinematic game

By on October 6, 2013

Every so often a film comes along that you can just feel is a game-changer as you’re watching, and it’s precisely that feeling that, as a movie lover, we all crave but so rarely ever truly get. Movies like that forever change the cinema landscape, but, let’s face it, are truly too few and too far in between a whole lot of what passes for entertainment these days. Don’t get me wrong, not everything has to be some cosmic leap forward in film history. Sometimes simply being reasonably entertained is just fine. But, as a critic that sees more films than the average film-goer in a given year, you can’t help but long for those films that are truly something special.

Think Citizen Kane, The Wizard of Oz, Jaws, Halloween, Jurassic Park, Pulp Fiction, and plenty more where those came from…but not nearly as much as you’d hope. Those films changed things- they permanently altered the film landscape that came after them. In terms of science-fiction, there’s the likes of Metropolis, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and, of course, Star Wars. You can add to that the film Gravity. It’s that good.

Quite simply put, this is a remarkable film. It’s also hard to describe in a way that could possibly do it justice. On paper, it sounds kind of slight and even a little boring. Basically, Sandra Bullock plays an astronaut/medical engineer who gets set adrift in space with her colleague, played by George Clooney, after an accident involving another spacecraft causes a bunch of debris to take out their own ship. The rest of the film involves mostly Bullock trying her best not to freak out and figure a way out of her predicament, with the help of Clooney. That’s really about it.

And yet, it’s a really magical experience, I have to say. I saw the film in 3D, and it was impressive enough- I can only imagine how much better and immersive it would be in IMAX. As it stands, I can’t think of another film that even comes close to capturing what it must be like to actually be in space better than this one.

Director Alfonso Cuarón, best known for the superlative Children of Men (which had an impressive “you are there”-quality to it as well, particularly in the scenes set in vehicles) and arguably the best of the Harry Potter series, The Prisoner of Azkaban, has really outdone himself here. The effects are nothing short of remarkable, and he perfectly captures the highs and lows of space travel- the trippy weightlessness as objects cascade around you, the scariness of feeling so alone and far away from civilization, and the frustration of trying to complete tasks that would typically be a relative breeze to someone in the know under normal circumstances, but become a constant struggle under the intense conditions that are working in space. No doubt about it- Cuarón nails it.

This is one hypnotic film, and yet, that swooning, relaxing sensation comes and goes as Bullock’s character is put through the wringer with one traumatic scenario after another, jarring the viewer out of their complacency with alarming regularity. I honestly can’t think of another film that’s managed to wring such an enormous amount of suspense out of such a slow-moving situation as featured here, but damned if it doesn’t work like gangbusters. I’ll allow that some people might find it a bit too slow-moving, given this quality of the film, but I found it entrancing, personally, and if it sounds like something you’d like, chances are you probably will, too.

Man, oh man, this is shaping up to be a killer Oscar season, and it’s only getting started. Look for Bullock to almost certainly clinch another Oscar nomination, with Cuarón likely to get a nod for Directing and Best Picture, as well. I can’t imagine the film not getting some technical awards at the very least. It really is an impressive achievement, and deserves every bit of praise it’s almost certainly going to get.

Gravity also earns the easiest A+ I’ve given all year. By all means, run-don’t walk- or at least, should I say, drift to the nearest theater to see this one, and make sure it has a quality sound system and the biggest screen you can find. Trust me, you’ll want it for this one- 3D is an absolute must. It’s nothing less than a modern-day classic of its kind, and hands down one of the most essential viewing experiences of the year so far. I can’t imagine it won’t be one of the best, period. This is the kind of film people go to the movies in the first place hoping to see, but so rarely get. Wait no further- you can’t go wrong with Gravity.

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About Mark Trammell

Mark Trammell is the resident entertainment critic at UAB, the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he is also a Graduate Student and does a vid-cast movie review show. He is a life-long fan of films and has a pretty whacked-out, all-over-the-place movie collection that would give most sane people pause. He loves horror movies and Disney flicks and isn't entirely sure there is a difference. He one day hopes to put his money where his mouth is and inflict his own perverse vision on society, entirely so that he can tell people who ask: "If you think you can do better, why don't you make a movie yourself?" to shut up.
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