Friday, October 11, 2013

Gravity: A Movie Out of this World

Cut to black. Credits roll. I usually stay through the credits when I see a movie. I mean, I want people to stay through the credits when my name is up there. But I didn't just stay through the credits. I stayed about ten minutes after the credits ended, until the man trying to clean up asked my friends and me to leave. The words spoken between us were few in that car ride home. We were actually speechless, completely shocked by what we just experienced. We needed to take it all in.

I knew Gravity would be incredible, but I did not expect to leave feeling the way I did. To be truthful, I've never left a movie theater feeling that way. I imagine it's how audiences, back in the start of cinema, felt when a train went by and they thought it was going to hit them. Or possibly how the audiences at the first Star Wars film felt. But this, this was unlike anything I have ever seen.

The story was nothing we haven't seen before. Astronauts up in space. Something disastrous happens. Stuck up there, trying to survive. Even down to the George Clooney character, Kowlaski, of the veteran astronaut in a state of nostalgia on his last mission to space. Nonetheless, I was sucked into this world. Completely captivated by the world Alfonso Cuarón created within minutes, I can only really describe the experience as an hour and a half long anxiety the best way possible, of course.

The movie is easily Sandra Bullock's best work. I so quickly felt connected to her character, Stone, despite barely being able to see her face through her spacesuit. Cuarón pushes her to new levels that we've never seen from her as an actress. She has my full support for the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role. But I could go on about how incredible Gravity is forever. So I'm sticking to the opening shot. The 17-minute take is an absolute masterpiece, shot by cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki. Beware: spoilers of the first 17 minutes of the film lie ahead.

The film opens to a shot of earth from space, which is the most realistic earth I have ever seen. Slowly, signs of life begin to emerge, as we hear faint radio chatter and a distant space shuttle, satellite, and astronauts enter into frame. While Kowlaski jokes around with mission control, Stone clings onto the telescope, having minor health issues and struggling to fix a component. The camera weightlessly glides from each character, almost as if it drifts along in space with everything else.

The tranquil scene is disrupted when mission control tells them to abort the mission, explaining that debris from a broken satellite has created a domino effect. Before they get the chance to make it back to their shuttle, the debris arrives bringing a deadly hail of missiles towards them. The camera pans to the astronauts who try to evacuate, with debris flying past them, so realistic that I flinched.

When something big crashed into the shuttle, it starts spinning, bringing Stone with it. The camera watches as she spins around and around with earth in the background. When something else crashes into the shuttle, the arm attaching Stone to the shuttle breaks off. The camera fluidly focuses in on Stone and begins to spin with her, close up on her terrified face. Then seamlessly, the camera turns, as if moving naturally in zero gravity, making its way behind Stone's glass. Now inside her space helmet, we see the background turn from space to earth to space to earth as we move with her. Over the radio, we hear Kowlaski tell her to detach herself before she gets too out of reach, so she does and the camera breaks away from her as she tumbles away from earth. She gets smaller and smaller until finally the camera cuts.

The genius of such a long, cinematically fascinating shot is that it brings the audience directly into the story. First, we are slowly introduced to the environment and then suddenly shifted right into the action. The cinematography of the long and thorough shot made you feel as though you were right there with these characters, experiencing this horror with them. Absolutely brilliant.

If you haven't already, you need to go see this movie. It is a revolutionary cinematic experience with groundbreaking special effects. Gravity might just be the most technologically impressive films ever made. It isn't often that you can walk out of a movie thinking, "How in the world did they do that?" You can place you bets on Gravity for all major awards in the categories of cinematography and visual effects. Go see it, and see it in 3D.

Lastly, the only negative reviews I have read of the film are about the scientific inaccuracy of some of the events. It almost angers me how stupid that is. If you're looking for a science lesson on space, go watch some informational documentary or rent a book or something. Nobody's going to this movie expecting to leave understanding outer space. This movie is made for entertainment. And truth be told, it is one of the greatest pieces of entertainment that society has ever seen. Gravity is out of this world. Pun intended.

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