Gravity (2013)

gravity_5Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Orto Ignatiussen, Phaldut Sharma, Ed Harris, Amy Warren, Basher Savage

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Expectations: High. Everyone loved this, right?

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On the technical side of things, Gravity is an absolutely amazing motion picture. It made me want to love the movie, but unfortunately movies do not succeed on their technical prowess alone. The emotional side of Gravity is a weak link, trading on stereotypical clichés and crafting moments too obviously designed to get a “deep” emotional reaction. This is not just Gravity‘s fault, though, as it’s more of a systemic disease afflicting a good majority of Hollywood mainstream films. But because of the technical mastery on display (especially the film’s 13-minute opening tracking shot), it felt right to hold Gravity to a different standard. Clearly, that didn’t entirely work out.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play American astronauts performing system upgrades on the Hubble telescope. For some reason, the Russians blast a satellite with a rocket, starting a chain reaction of space debris that not only jeopardizes the American mission, but their lives. Sounds like the plot of an ’80s movie looking to reinforce Cold War ideals, but I assure you it just came out last year!

gravity_2In addition to my problem with the cloying emotional base of Gravity, there are some serious issues of logic plaguing the film. Let me preface my issues with this: I’m no scientist and I don’t work at NASA, so I have no idea what would be a good or bad thing to do in a perilous situation in space. But I feel pretty confident in saying that when your suit’s oxygen level is reading 2%, you don’t continue making small talk. I know talking about mundane things can have something of a calming effect in a stressful situation (and Sandra Bullock was definitely breathing heavily and wasting oxygen), but talking is only speeding up the process, no?

I also had a hard time buying the fact that they’d let Sandra Bullock’s character into space. Even when the film is just beginning and everything is going according to plan, she’s already high-strung and nervous. When the shit hits the fan, it only gets worse. This I don’t mind too much; if I was in that situation I’d be losing my shit too. But NASA isn’t supposed to send just anyone up into space and out on a spacewalk are they? Bullock is the everywoman in space, and it seems really farfetched. These people are supposed to be astronaut quality — scientists and professionals who have trained many years for this moment. This is the same argument that many hurled at Prometheus; the difference here being that Gravity is trying its best to be realistic, while Prometheus was always going for pure and total fantasy (with a philosophical bent). There’s also the element that my girlfriend noticed where Clooney, the cocky, red-blooded, American male, is cool and calm compared to Bullock’s frenetic, emotional female. Would it kill Hollywood to reverse some roles once in a while?

gravity_4But honestly, despite these issues that made the second half of Gravity far less than it could have been, the film is pretty good entertainment. It’s such a technical tour de force of incredible FX work and amazing visuals, that I’d say anyone that loves film should probably see it. Oh, but before you get your expectations up and slip into that spacesuit, it should be known that Gravity is not science fiction, hard, soft or otherwise. See Europa Report for that. No, Gravity is a straight-up Hollywood drama/thriller that happens to be set in space, and nothing more.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ufsrgE0BYf0

8 comments to Gravity (2013)

  • I agree with some of your points, especially with some of the narrative logic that doesn’t really fly. Still, I think that I’m a bit more willing to forgive it given the visceral experience. That’s hard to top, and Bullock makes most of the issues seem less troubling. They don’t completely go away, but she helps a lot.

    • Maybe it’s that I didn’t see it in the theater and I’m not much of a Bullock fan. I think I’m just too logic-brained to truly buy into this film. It was great at the beginning, though, before all those cliched emotions kicked in.

  • I agree with Dan, above, that Bullock transcends the film’s inherent “flaws” of believability in this instance – sure, she’s a little freaked out be even being in space, and I get that Clooney’s cool, calm collected space dude schtick might rub some up the wrong way, but as a visceral, energizing experience that makes for one of the most frighteningly realistic films in recent times, I have to say Gravity is a ripper.

    • Yeah, they do a fantastic job of making it seem like she’s in space. I can’t imagine how they filmed it, and I don’t even want to know. It’s better as a mystery. But I don’t understand how Bullock makes the logic flaws any better. I guess if it were someone I liked more I might be more forgiving, but a hard-to-buy logic flaw is still annoying no matter who the actor is. And in a film that presents itself as a “realistic experience” like this one, shouldn’t logic matter?

  • After all the pre-oscar commercials, I was getting pretty sick of this movie. It looked like it was all about watching Bullock go into melodramatic hysterics. I really don’t want to sit through two hours of OMG, EMOTIONS!!!!! I’m sure the ads used the most over-the-top moments, but I’m afraid those ads have driven me away from the film for good.

    • Hahahaha, these are the benefits of having my cable turned off. I didn’t have to see the endless, pretentious Oscar commercials! Or the Oscars! Yay me!

      The first 20-25 minutes are fucking amazing. I was stoked and I actually thought it was going to live up to the hype. Then it slowly starts to lose steam and credibility, which of course leads to the melodrama you mention. Ugh. I don’t mind melodrama but it really killed this movie. I’d still recommend it just based on the technical achievement in terms of filmmaking, but I don’t think you care too much about that so you could easily skip it. I was also annoyed that it just a dramatic thriller in space. It literally could have been set on a boat, a train, a bus, anything and still worked. Boo. But no movie has ever captured space in quite this way, so it’s rather nice to look at from that perspective.

  • Dan

    I’m not going to argue with you in regards to the plausibility of the story and the actions the characters take, as I believe you have a valid point. However, for me, I was able to set that aside because this was a b-movie masquerading as a big budget A picture. It was like Spielberg’s Duel – the film is a streamlined thriller with a little meat on its bones (Bullock’s character back story) to give it an emotional pull as the fast-moving disaster works its way through lifeline after lifeline. It was edge-of-your-seat stuff that looked and sounded awesome thanks to the ingenuity of the camerawork and sound design. It is a work of technical art that entertains on the simplest levels. I can forgive it its creative license.

    • I think most people put aside the concerns for the visceral impact of the film. The allusion to Duel is a good one, I wouldn’t have thought of it myself. They are similar in how stripped down they are, even though Gravity’s constant stream of visual FX is exactly the opposite of “stripped down.” 🙂

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