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Gravity •••• 1/2

MV5BNjE5MzYwMzYxMF5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwOTk4MTk0OQ@@._V1_SY317_CR0,0,214,317_Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Screenplay: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón
Science Fiction, Drama, Thriller, Rated: PG-13
Running Time: 90 minutes
Release Date: October 4, 2013



(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)

Greg, after all those summer lightweight movies, it’s time for something heavy.

Gravity will definitely keep you in your seat.

Gravity certainly begins with a bang. Literally. Astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are conducting routine repairs outside their orbiting space shuttle when they are told by mission command that a Russian space accident is sending high-speed shrapnel their way. The shrapnel destroys their shuttle, killing three of their crew, while Stone is detached from her line and is sent spinning in space, alone and running out of oxygen.

Kowalski retrieves Stone but with the shuttle in ruins they realize their only hope is to make their way to the orbiting International Space Station where a Soyuz spacecraft awaits as an escape pod. They estimate they have only 90 minutes before the orbiting debris field returns for another hack at them. The race is on as Kowalski tethers Stone to his jetpack and they traverse the emptiness of space for the ISS.

Scott, this was a visually stunning movie. I saw it in IMAX 3D and I could not have been more impressed. The movie makers understood the physics and silence of space and played it to full effect. The destruction scene where Stone spins off into space is just mesmerizing. The backdrop of the entire movie is a beautiful panorama of the Earth as seen from space. Gravity is a breathtaking visual feast from beginning to end.

I totally agree, Greg. Gravity is one of those well-crafted movies that grabs our attention and holds it easily for 90 minutes. The film is able to convey the wonder and awe of being a mere human in the vastness of space. There are many magnificent shots of the earth and its ethereal beauty, often reflected exquisitely on the astronauts’ facemasks.

The movie’s strength is its supreme simplicity. There are only two characters, and we come to know them and like them quite well. We should not underestimate Sandra Bullock’s stellar performance here. I’m reminded of Tom Hanks’ work in Castaway in which he carries scene after scene, alone, frightened, and resourceful. Bullock strikes the right charismatic balance between portraying both terror and charm. I was impressed.

Sandra Bullock has a long history of choosing strong female roles. From 2000’s Miss Congeniality, to 2009’s The Blind Side and even this summer’s The Heat, Bullock looks for roles that play to her strengths and to the strength of her female lead character. Gravity is no exception.

Bullock’s Dr. Stone starts out very self-occupied. She isn’t at ease in space. We learn that she’s never gotten over the accidental death of her 4-year-old daughter. In many ways, Stone is just going through the paces of her life. She avoids contact with other people. But through this harrowing adventure she discovers her inner strength and comes to closure with her inner demons.

Exactly. As in any good movie, we witness a commendable character transformation in our hero. Stone develops a confidence and a resourcefulness that she lacks at the outset of the film. And we can be sure that she is forever changed by her experiences. Stone is a terrific female hero, a nice change of pace from the disproportionate number of male heroes in movies today.

I do have a few nitpicks. Although George Clooney did a fine job is his role, I wish that his character had been a woman. This would have allowed Stone to become transformed without the help of a man, as the last thing we need is a film telling us that women cannot be heroes without male assistance. My other quibbles center on Stone taking far too much time to save herself when her oxygen was running low, as well as a scene in which one member of the crew seemed to untether himself from a life-line unnecessarily. I can forgive these oversights because on the whole, Gravity is a quality movie experience.

Gravity is also one of the most visually appealing movies I’ve ever seen. The movie makers used new technology to film the weightless aspects of outer space without resorting to the “Vomit Comet.”  They did a great job of giving the impression that we are spinning around helplessly in zero-G.  I compare it to such films as 1968’s 2001: A Space Odyssey and 1999’s The Matrix in terms of innovation. I fully expect Oscar nods for this film.

The Hero’s Journey is fully realized as well. Clooney as the veteran space walker plays the mentor to Bullock’s Stone. All the important plot points were hit at just the right times. Gravity clocks in at just 90 minutes but it felt like it went a lot faster. I was constantly on the edge of my seat worrying about what Stone was going to do next.

My limited knowledge of physics was not offended by this film. I did notice a couple of plot devices that were improbable (for example, one would find a trip from the Hubble Telescope to the International Space Station a bit more difficult than we see here). But that did not impact my enjoyment of the experience.

Gravity is a masterfully made movie that transported me from the safety of my theater seat to the treacherous void of space. I was captivated by the story and I felt every bit of the hero’s journey with Dr. Stone. For completely immersing me in a classic story of escape and even redemption, I give Gravity 5 out of 5 Reels.  Sandra Bullock’s portrayal of an ordinary person in the extraordinary situation of working her way home from a distant shore was heroic and personal. I give her 5 Heroes out of 5.

Movie: reel-5  Hero: superman-5

I did enjoy Gravity and will most likely include it in my top-10 movie list for 2013, but I wouldn’t go so far as to call it as classic film or a groundbreaking film.  Gravity is an excellent, suspenseful movie that will leave you rooting for and cheering for a hero who overcomes the odds, along with her inner demons, to survive a catastrophic space accident. I highly recommend this movie and happily award it 4 Reels out of 5. The hero story has most of the classic elements and earns top honors from me in the form of 5 Heroes out of 5.

Movie: reel-4 Hero: superman-5

1 Comment

  1. I also saw it in IMAX 3D and recommend it. It was a fun ride, but a number of things chafed on me a bit:

    – The way Kowalski related to Stone was like an overly helpful husband telling his wife how to use a can opener. He really had to explain oxygen depletion and CO2 to someone with a PhD in bio-medical engineering? Thlis goes on throughout and makes Stone look like a space bimbo.
    – Under her space suit she’s in shorts and a tank top? No way. OK, it’s a movie, but it breaks the plane of realism for me.
    – Every useful space thing, including Hubble, are within “walking” distance, including a nonexistent Chinese space station? I’m told that was a “bone” they threw to the Chinese audience. OK, it’s sci-fi, I’m gonna roll with that one, but it’s outrageous.
    – The fuel guage goes to zero with two taps, just like in China Syndrome. Give me a break.
    – Stone totally guesses how to navigate a Chinese escape pod by pressing random buttons. Now we’re getting into the absurd. She’s a very, very intelligent, selected scientist. Why not make her bi-lingual? That’s more plausible than “eenie, meenie, minie, moe.”
    – Sinking to the bottom of a lake in your space suit, then holding your breath long enough to take it off and swim to the top. There’s got to be a more plausible scenario than that.

    With so much time and effort put into realism, really a MASSIVE amount, you’d think they wouldn’t spoil that realistic feel with the goofy stuff listed above.

    So, yes, I really enjoyed it, but the dumb stuff got in the way for me a bit. Cut the dumb stuff, add some more depth, and I would have floated out of my seat …

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