Sometimes, a movie is released that just begs to be witnessed on the big screen. A movie that, if someone waits to watch it on their television, will lose something only evident when sprawled across a large canvas. A movie that you brag to others years later about having gotten to see when it was in theatres. Gravity is one of those movies.
The terrifying and simple plot revolves around astronaut Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), who is repairing a satellite when stray debris destroys the space shuttle she and astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) were planning on using to get back to Earth. The terror of being utterly lost and alone has been tackled before in movies like Open Water and 127 Hours, but that fear is multiplied exponentially with the prospect of being alone in outer space, with nowhere to go, no way to get back to Earth, and a dwindling supply of oxygen.
In addition to being unrelentingly tense, Gravity somehow finds time to also be quietly beautiful and almost poetic. It’s an amazing juggling act for which director Alfonso Cuarón deserves complete credit.
From the opening shot (which lasts 17 minutes, including the kinetic and explosive destruction sequence of the shuttle), Gravity throws special effect after special effect at you, firing a 90-minute barrage of filmmaking tricks that blend seamlessly and perplex the brain long after the credits roll.
The gargantuan size and scope of space is so unfathomable, no movie has ever truly captured it. Some, like Stanley Kubrick’s seminal 2001: A Space Odyssey, have come very close, but none achieved what Gravity does. When watching it, you feel like you’re in space. The accomplishment of eliciting that feeling is hard to truly appreciate. (It should be added that the movie’s 3D is flawless, adding an infinite depth that helps to truly immerse you in the experience.)
People talk in reverence about when they saw visual masterpieces like Star Wars, Jurassic Park, Titanic, The Matrix, or Avatar on the big screen. In a decade’s time, people will look back and say the same things about Gravity.