Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Movie Review: GRAVITY - 9.7 Stars, Spoiler Free!

Jaw-dropping! Worth every cent for a ticket to see this thing on the largest 3D screen possible. You WILL feel like an astronaut - and who doesn't want to feel like an astronaut?

This is a SPOILER-FREE review. Please note that the comments are NOT spoiler free and everyone has virtual free reign to discuss the movie.

GRAVITY pays homage to the dangerous careers that astronauts have, the incessant need that humans have to explore and adapt to change. It also pays homage to Apollo 13 (and all the men and women who have given their lives in the name of space exploration), to mothers, to women explorers and the tenacity it takes to survive and overcome the odds.

To date, GRAVITY has pulled in just under $100 million worldwide - and it just opened!

Let's get into the review's breakdown of the movie:

Story - 98%. The amazing thing about this ORIGINAL work is that most of the story is told visually. For me and for many, that is the way to win over an audience and young filmmakers would do well to emulate this accomplishment. I won't say more at this point other than to emphasis that the whole thing was an original script, something we could use a whole lot more of these days. I love that Alfonso was in this project from day 1 with co-writing (with his son) it right straight through to the end. This is definitely Cuaron at his best!

So why not give it 100%? Some issues in the story would be in how certain astronauts would have reacted to events as they unfold - keep in mind that these are not average people off the street. They are highly qualified and TRAINED individuals and scientists. Emergencies are prepared for through training and psychological assessments done long ago to ensure the best possible scenarios as far as human selection are concerned for these missions. I felt not all of this was addressed in totality here. I won't go into specifics so there are no spoilers, and one of you may convince me otherwise with something I missed in the moment. We can discuss in the spoiler filled comments.

What I loved was visual storytelling. Symbolism is definitely at play a great deal in the movie - keep your eye open for hints to get you thinking about birth, the meaning of life, parenting - especially motherhood and the oneness of being human across all races. GRAVITY's story is extremely well told, but it's told in such a VISUAL way that everyone can and will have a slightly different take on the whole film. It's a unifying film though - don't get me wrong. It celebrates the differences in the human race but also what ties us inextricably together. But due to the visual storytelling nature of the production, it will be uniquely special to YOU. Oscar? Perhaps.

Acting - 94%. What can I say? Sandra Bullock gives an amazing visceral performance. She was perfectly cast I believe and a solid choice for the role. One can wonder how Angelina Jolie would have performed in the role but there's no need. Bullock nailed it. She brought a believe ability factor to the role that I don't think anyone else could have achieved. And as I will say below, the suspension of disbelief in this movie is it's greatest achievement and Bullock contributed marvelously to the outcome. Oscar? Perhaps.

George Clooney play a pivotal role in this thing. He has the presence that the movie needed and anchored the believably to large extent as well.

Character Development - 92%. More time could have been spent here but I think that given the nature of the cinematography (extremely long shots) and the almost real-time nature of the pacing it makes it very difficult to weave in memories or flashbacks, etc to solidify visually this type of development. Alfonso Cuaron used everything that was available to him though - photographs, character storytelling, excellent character banter and so on. I'd love to give more percentage accomplished in this category but I can't. Do we see a change in Bullock's character? Oh yes. I see awards in her near future again.

Suspension of Disbelief - 100%. GRAVITY's greatest achievement! It's here that I wish I hadn't seen any trailers, featurettes or behind the scenes shots because those were the only moments were suspension of disbelief was broken for me. I have a problem with that sometimes and as an aspiring filmmaker myself it is hard to look and analyse how a scene was shot and made. But for the vast majority of you - GRAVITY is a trip to space that you will feel as if you are really there.

Directing - 98%. Alfonso Cuaron just solidified his position as one of the greatest directors we have today. His boldness and eye for the human condition in adversity is one of his strongest suits. His stewardship of this movie that almost didn't get made so many times in itself is a testament to his confidence in himself and the people around him to get the job done.

Cuaron's signature long scenes are definitely in the movie and dramatically pulls you into the action and the inaction of various scenes. You won't want to blink! It's amazing really. Cuaron is essentially the best at this device and it works.

If I could define Cuaron's career to date in one word it would be VISION. For me, that's the most important element of the movie (which includes his vision for the original story to begin with). Oscar? Yes.

Sound / Score - 98%. Stephen Price (THE WORLD'S END) did a remarkable job with GRAVITY. At times it wasn't what music was playing but the lack of sound altogether! I think that elegance is as much the story here as the composing. Price's score did indeed have a huge part to play in the stellar achievement in suspension of disbelief. Everything just sucked you in. Sound. Score. 3D. Cinematography. Long scenes. The list goes on. Stunning results. Oscar? Perhaps.

Cinematography - 100%. Emmanuel Lubezki (THE TREE OF LIFE, CHILDREN OF MEN) just completely overwhelmed in this movie! Perfect score. Again the superlative I want to use is jaw-dropping. Lubezki is able to not only work within the scope of Cuaron's unique fashion of storytelling, but also keeps everything beautifully balanced as a natural extension of our own eyesight. I'm sure Lubezki must have worked closely with Prime Focus to pull off the 3D results in post production as well because there wasn't any trouble spots that I could detect at all anywhere. More on the in the 3D portion. Hats off Emmanuel! Oscar? Yes.

Visual / Special Effects / Stunts - 100%. Another perfect score! Anyone who reads MarketSaw knows that I don't throw out perfect scores randomly. They are RARE and with good reason. If I give a 100% mark it's because I think it will hold up to the best of the best not only now but in the future. It's a classic in other words and really should be the subject of master classes in filmmaking the world around. I couldn't stick around to watch all the credits unfortunately this time around (I will with the next viewing!) but I think Framestore did the lions-share of the hands on work. Kudos!! Weightlessness shots - AMAZING! The explosion portions were thrilling to watch with the 3D immersion and the human element involved thrown in. Oscar? Yes.

Stereoscopic 3D - 98%. What can I say other than this is the finest 3D conversion I have ever seen. Well done Prime Focus! If there was an Oscar for 3D? Yes.

I still think there were times were shooting natively would have produced better results, and I'm thinking specifically during the interior moments. Also I am of the opinion that the threshold could have been pushed a bit further on some of the exterior shots as well - I found my eyes to be very well rested throughout the movie so there was some room to play with in my opinion. I especially enjoyed the end shot (no spoiler) where they dialed in 3D a fair amount for that crescendo of emotion. Well done. Very well done.

However I will say that this is definitely the bar for 3D conversion. THE AVENGERS was absolutely great 3D. GRAVITY is better. Stereo D, it's your move!

GRAVITY is now playing! What are you waiting for? This is an event and a must see!

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Jim Dorey
jim (at) marketsaw (dot) com

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