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Reel Guys Gravity review: Philosophical movie about life, isolation, and fear watches like a beautiful ballet Oct. 4, 2013


This is a spacey story about medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney). She’s an uptight novice; he’s a wisecracking vet on his final mission. It’s routine stuff until a debris storm, comprised of bits and pieces of old satellites, crashes into their space shuttle. Stone is knocked “off structure” and drifting through the inky darkness while Kowalsky uses his experience and calm to rescue her. The storm has also knocked their communications offline and they are forced to become Space MacGyvers in order to survive.

•    Richard: 4/5
•    Mark: 4/5

Richard: Mark, Gravity is an ambitious film. From a technical point of view it’s a wild outer space adventure, but it is grounded by Ryan Stone’s personal story and her search to find meaning in her life. It’s not an epic like 2001: A Space Odyssey or an outright horror film like Alien. There are no monsters or face hugging ETs. It’s not even a movie about life or death. Instead it is a life-affirming movie about the will to survive. What did you think?

Mark: Richard, I think the movie is about our deepest fear: the fear of being alone. Sandra Bullock is literally adrift and detached from everything and the effect is powerful. It may take place in space but reminded me of films like Castaway and 127 Hours.

RC: It does have a lot in common with those movies, plus some mind-bending special effects. The isolation of space is well portrayed, the “off structure” sequences are tense and effective and the shots of Bullock drifting in the inky darkness or floating through her space shuttle are beautiful, like interstellar ballet. As effective as the human story is in Gravity, however, I could almost imagine turning the sound down and being content to just watch the pictures. Like Laser Floyd in Space.

What did you think of Bullock?

MB: She was great; very moving. But it’s the cinematography that’s the real star. Pure visual poetry. If there were ever a movie that deserved to be seen in 3D IMAX this is it. But the music was kind of overwrought, wasn’t it?

RC: It’s strange, but I don’t really remember the music. There is no sound in space, I guess. For me the movie is all about the visual beauty. The 17-minute-long uninterrupted shot that starts the film is spectacular and overall the look will make your eyeballs dance, although I wonder though if it isn’t just a bit too in love with its technique in places.

There’s a scene where we see Bullock reflected in one of her own, gravity free, tears. It’s a great image but one that feels a bit too clever. It was one of the few times in the film that I thought I was watching a special effect.

MB: I noticed the tears too, although I was just grateful she didn’t have a runny nose.

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