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Review: ‘Gravity’

A space film of thrilling authenticity, ‘Gravity’ is essential viewing for everyone.
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Jonathan Doyle, September 13, 2013 9:32:42 AM

Grade: A

The most talked about film of the Toronto International Film Festival, Gravity is far more than it seems. Featuring arguably the most bold and imaginative special effects ever conceived, this nail-biting suspense film also marks a significant step forward in the evolution of the medium. While astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) are in the midst of a spacewalk, debris from a Russian space mishap destroys their shuttle, leaving them floating in space—without the oxygen or shelter they need to survive. With inventive teamwork, they manage to buy themselves some time, but this situation forces them into one harrowing crisis after another.

At this point in film history, it’s not easy to amaze audiences with special effects, but Gravity manages that rare achievement thanks to the sophistication of director Alfonso Cuarón’s filmmaking methods. Rather than simply show us startling visuals—and the visuals are most certainly that—he relays most of the drama with a minimum of cuts, heightening the film’s thrilling first-person approach. It can’t be emphasized strongly enough: Gravity is not about witnessing events in space, it’s about experiencing them.

Using 3D to exhilarating effect and devising a zero gravity visual language with no definitive sense of up or down, Cuarón constantly finds new ways to make our time in space more authentic. While some have complained about the simplicity of the story, it should be noted that this minimalism reflects the uncluttered reality of space, forcing us to experience the same urgent, visceral focus as the characters. The film’s narrative also leaves room for viewers to relate Gravity back to their own lives, making the experience even more universal and resonant.

More than just a technological triumph, Gravity features strong performances—which, it should be noted, are also the product of Cuarón’s innovations—by both Bullock and Clooney, who emphasize their characters’ essential humanity, rather than the more uncommon traits that put them in this position. The film also features a remarkably detailed, well-researched depiction of space travel, without losing sight of the characters’ central objective: survival. Providing an immersive cinematic experience unequalled in the history of cinema, this is essential viewing for science fiction fans—and everyone else.

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Jonathan Doyle

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