Monday, October 21, 2013

Movie with Abe: Gravity

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron
Released October 4, 2013

Sometimes, a premise seems extremely simple, and it’s hard to believe that it could play out over more than a few minutes. The concept of two astronauts being separated from their ship and drifting through space doesn’t sound all that enticing, though it’s certainly a terrifying notion. Leave it to Alfonso Cuaron, whose last feature-length film, “Children of Men,” was nothing short of astonishing, to make it into a workable and extensively captivating film, and to enlist the talents of two big-name Hollywood actors for what’s far from simply a paycheck.

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock both started out as comedians whose reputations as serious thespians took a while to catch on. Ultimately, both won Oscars, Clooney for 2005’s “Syriana” and Bullock for 2009’s “The Blind Side,” and they’ve now reached a happy medium between blockbuster and independent roles. This technically qualifies as both, since a $100 million budget is big, but the film’s arthouse director makes it count as something more than just loud sounds and dazzling visuals. These are two actors who don’t need to try hard to be good giving it their all as two astronauts with very different reactions to the unbelievable news that they’ve quite literally been stranded in space.

“Gravity” runs just ninety-one minutes, and it makes full use of that time to stick with its characters, leaving them only for a moment or two intermittently to remind viewers of the mesmerizing nature of their surroundings. The film’s cinematography is dizzying as Clooney’s Matt and Bullock’s Ryan go tumbling through space for minutes of end, but staying with them as they rotate over and over helps to convey the inescapable nature of being adrift. Though much of the filming process surely didn’t involve the two actors actually suited up in simulated space, it all feels devastatingly real and fully intoxicating.

The combination of Clooney and Bullock here works extremely well. Clooney is his usual smooth-talking, charming self, not missing a beat in his nonstop chatter, telling stories of his wild past over the radio before all hell breaks loose and then expressing a similar calm once it’s just him and Ryan. Bullock is a perfect foil, nervous and skeptical, but ultimately just as determined to survive. The film is fueled by their energy, and, as it progresses, becomes more engaging and interesting, culminating in a thoroughly satisfying conclusion to a story that could easily have ended on a less fulfilling note.


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