Monday, January 6, 2014

Gravity (2013) - Reviewing 2013's Best Movies

JohnnyTwoToes praises the superlative Space Masterpiece by Alfonso Cuaron

Not since Stanley Kubrick's 2001 A Space Odyssey and The Right Stuff has there been a more convincingly effective scifi film about space and the true dangers of space travel than in Alfonso Cuaron's masterpiece, Gravity. The film has been praised by just about everybody that has seen it, as one of, if not the very best film of 2013. It is definitely in the top five of my list. 

Gravity tells a rather simple story of a group of astronauts in space repairing their shuttle when to their horror a Russian satellite showers space debris on them while they are out of the shuttle (in space literally). The Russians have apparently shot one of their own satellites out of the cosmos because it has stopped working. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) becomes unattached from the shuttle and the commander named Matt Kowlaski tries to get her back to the shuttle. There is more to the story but I will not ruin it for viewers who are yet to see this gem. So, the less you know the better. 

Gravity is told in real time at 90 minutes, because that is the amount of time it takes for the space station (shuttle) and the space debris to orbit the Earth. As most people know there is virtually no sound in space and, as the film opens we are told it can be as cold as minus 158 degrees below zero (or even worse). Most of the rest of the film for the most part is as scientifically accurate as director Cuaron can make it. Sound is muffled since there is virtually no sound in space (because there is noty oxygen). Some of the sounds in the film were added to give the film some scope, but VERY few. 

Cauron, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber have gone to great pains to make Gravity as authentic as possible and it shows. Gravity is a film that I watched with my mouth open through a great number of scenes. It is shockingly terrifying in its story and you will be stunned that anyone could make it through this scenario and keep their wits about them. Most of us (most definitely myself included) would be in panic mode. But Gravity shows that the astronauts are well trained and expect the very worst, but hope for the best. 

The script by Alfonso and his son Jonas Cuaron is a thoughtful one. The characters are not superheroes but real people and whatever issues they have within their own lives is played out very subtlety and is never overdone. The acting and writing are simpatico in Gravity which gives the story more potency and Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone gives an Oscar caliber performance. She is a strong woman but is not above showing her frailty, and George Clooney provides some swagger as the commander of the shuttle.

And this brings me to the fantastic score by Steven Price. English composer, Price provides an elegantly powerful score that is mostly electronic but it is one worthy of an Oscar. I put the "but" in there because the Academy seems to frown on scores that are mostly electronic opting for the big, sweeping Orchestral soundtracks (I love all kinds). The last score to win the Oscar was Vangelis for Chariots of Fire from 1981 (unless someone knows something different). Mr. Price is a relative newcomer to scoring big feature films but his score is simply beautiful. It is music that you can listen to even without the film and is worth purchasing from any retailer that has it. 

Gravity has generated a lot of Oscar buzz and with good reason. It is a fantastic film that will leave you in awe both technically and as entertainment. I spent most of the time with my hand over my mouth or wincing, seeing how far the film would push the viewer into watching and it is a literal, edge of your seat thriller. Hopefully, the Academy will see it the same way next March (Oscar night). Gravity-**** out of four


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