There is a scene towards the end of Gravity where for just about a minute of film, Sandra Bullock gives her best performance ever. It’s a moment so honest, heartbreaking and slow-paced it gives the perfect contrast to the rest of the movie. I love when movies surprise me, and for an entire minute I was in complete shock an actress like Bullock could pull off a scene like this. Then George Clooney comes bursting through the door, and the film goes back to being the cheesy and emotionally-jumbled picture it was up until that point. Gravity is a technical masterpiece. However, it’s hammy writing and acting really prevent it from achieving perfect buoyancy, just like lack of sleep prevents me from resisting the urge to use shitty space puns.
The first thing anybody will notice about Gravity is how absolutely beautiful it is. Cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki deserves every kind of award he can get his pretty little fingers around. Lubezki invented a lot of interesting tools to get the feel of space right, including a complicated 20-foot “Light Box” complete with 4,000 LED bulbs, which could rotate around the actors giving the illusion they were actually moving.
From a technical stand point, this is groundbreaking cinema. Not just the cinematography, but the editing, sound, CGI effects and Alfonso Cuaron’s masterful direction. All these elements combined literally take your breath away, creating a 90-minute thrill ride that keeps you on the edge of your seat without pause.
As good as the technical side of Cuaron’s “Gravity” is, the writing really can’t match it. Much like Avatar (though, oh god, not THAT bad) or pretty much any James Cameron film, the characters are one-dimensional and the dialogue is so vague, hacky and bland it appears to be lifted from a video game.
Bullock plays a doctor who was flown into space for some reason, and Clooney is the ol’ wisecracking astronaut with a bunch of stories to tell (but everyone has already heard them before!) When those damn commie Russians shoot down one of their own satellites, the debris end up in the path of Clooney and Bullock, killing everyone on their mission but them and destroying their ship. THEY ARE NOW LOST IN SPACE. Gee thanks Russians, now they’ll never get home in time to watch the new Big Bang Theory (Sundays @ 8/9pm central on CBS.)
The rest of the film is just them trying to figure out how to get home, and becomes very procedural (but exquisitely entertaining) in that they have to do this – which leads to this – which leads to this – which causes this. While this is very engrossing, the “character building” dialogue that fills the cracks is pretty suspicious.
Of course, Bullock’s character is emotionally scarred because her nine year old daughter was accidentally murdered on a playground when pushed by another student. I don’t understand why characters in life-threatening situations in movies always need to have a traumatic back story. It just doesn’t seem likely that much bad shit would happen to any one person — YEAR ONE: my nine year old accidentally bashes her head in on cement (I’m assuming, it’s a hard surface on a playground) and YEAR TWO: some debris from a Russian satellite explosion destroys my ship and sends me flying into space.This information is revealed in a really over-the-top dramatic monologue by Bullock that I’m pretty sure was a deleted scene from The Lake House.
Clooney doesn’t have much in the way of bad back stories other than bad luck with women (YEAH FUCKING RIGHT) and his character is quite obviously the Obi-Wan-esque guide to Bullock’s character, offering the advice and strength she needs to survive the ordeal.
Besides cringe inducing dialogue and performances that suffer for the most part because of it, Gravity is a really solid film. It’s without a doubt one of the most unique movie-going experiences you’ll have all year, and if you don’t see it in theaters you really aren’t doing the film justice. With a better screenplay, Gravity would be hands down one of the best films of the year. With the screenplay it has, it is just merely a good one. Grade: B