Gravity is certainly one of the better movies, though not the best, to come out of 2013 and between the technological achievements by Alfonso Cuarón and the VFX crew, a taut story and Sandra Bullock’s performance, it’s one heck of a journey that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s not a movie for everybody and admittedly Cuarón utilization of symbolism is at times a bit laughable, I still recommend this movie.
Genre(s): Science-Fiction, Drama, Suspense/Thriller
Warner Bros. | PG13 – 91 min. – $35.99 | February 25, 2014
Theatrical Release Date: October 4, 2013
Features: Featurettes, DVD Copy, UltraViolet Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 5.1), French (Dolby Digital 5.1), Spanish (Dolby Digital 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.40
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 38.2 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
Region(s): A, B, C
THE MOVIE – 4.5/5
Note: This review does contain spoilers so please skip if you have yet to see the movie.
Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón’s latest film is simple yet effective providing drama and suspense from beginning to end and opens with a breathtaking sequence showcasing planet Earth as Space Shuttle Explorer and its crew – the charismatic Mission Commander Matt Kowalski (GEORGE CLOONEY), medical engineer Ryan Stone (SANDRA BULLOCK on her first trip to space, and a couple others whose fates are determined less than 20-minutes in – are on a space walk to repair something or other.
Things apparently are routine, though the device Stone is trying to fix is giving her troubles, when they receive word from Mission Control (voiced by ED HARRIS) that the Russians had launched a missile to destroy one of their own (spy) satellites and the debris is coming their way at a brisk pace. Before Kowalski and Stone can get back and Explorer get out of the debris field, it’s pummeled killing two crew members and sending Stone flying off into the abyss with Kowalski eventually able to calm her down, given her oxygen levels is rapidly decreasing, and get to her. However, the two are in deep trouble as the debris knocked out all the satellites thus cutting off all communication with mission control. Their only hope is to get to the International Space Station which had already been abandoned though there is one pod that could get them home.
I’m stopping here with the plot summary as not to spoil much more, that said, for something with a simple story all set in space with nary even a flashback, I commend the Cuarón brothers for painting a dramatic and traumatic back-story particularly for Stone which is heartbreaking simply being told as exposition in the form of Kowalski attempting to keep Stone calm. It’s an effective tool which pays dividends later in the film and allows the audience to actually care about Stone and her fight for survival.
Not to be forgotten or passed over, I also have to give praise to composer Steven Price (The Worlds’ End) who has created a powerful, haunting and all around amazing score and as somebody who buys motion picture scores, it’s easily the best I’ve come across since perhaps The Fountain. It’s an absolutely incredible score worth buying.
Director Alfonso Cuarón came onto the mainstream scene with 1998’s Great Expectations but made an even bigger splash taking Harry Potter into darker territory on Prisoner of Azkaban (one of my favorite in that franchise) and followed that up with the incredible drama/thriller, Children of Men, which character-wise, is pretty comparable with to Gravity. Beyond the technological challenges Cuarón – along with his writer/brother Jonás – took for a movie that takes place nearly entirely in outer-space, he manages to keep the suspense going at a brisk pace through the 85-minute running time (sans end credits), not an easy task given you only have two characters and a relatively simple plot.
Gravity is one of the more incredible experiences I’ve had with a movie in quite a while and although I acknowledge many will not enjoy it, and furthermore I recognize the heavy-handed uses of symbolism with rebirth and such (you can see one in the screenshot above), I still found it to be a fantastic journey from beginning to end and features an incredible performance from Sandra Bullock who fully deserves the Oscar nomination. Clooney for his part is serviceable in what is filler but he and Bullock have good chemistry.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.5/5
The release comes with a semi-reflective glossy slip cover. Inside contains the standard DVD Copy and a slip for the UltraViolet download code.
Gravity: Mission Control (1:46:36; HD) is a comprehensive, 9-part featurette covering the making of the movie from the script/story, casting, visual effects and just about each aspect of filmmaking, including the challenges. Also features interviews with Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney amongst others.
Shot Breakdowns (36:48; HD) – These look at how some of the visuals – “Behind the Visor”, “Fire in the International Space Station”, “Dr. Stone’s Rebirth”, “The Sound of Action in Space” and “Splashdown” – were achieved.
Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space (22:28; HD) is a documentary narrated by Ed Harris looking at the attempts to rid outer space of debris.
Aningaaq (6:53; HD) is the short film, directed by Jonás Cuarón, which shows the perspective from the man whom Bullock’s character was speaking to in the film.
Preview – Her
VIDEO – 5.0/5
Gravity drifts through space and finds safety on Blu-ray with a 1080p high-definition and presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture looks beautiful in HD from the stark black in space to the bright, aluminous colors of Earth which is stunning even on the small screen (really wish I had seen it in IMAX). Using the Arri Alexa M camera, the movie has amazing clarity and the detail levels are incredible with no obvious signs of pixilation or artifacting.
AUDIO – 5.0/5
Disappointingly, Warner only included a 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track instead of a 7.1 channel track but even so, the lossless audio still sounds incredible with excellent dialogue levels coming from the center speaker to the resounding score that fills any voids since there’s minimal sound effects. It’s a great aural experience all around and has a wide range from Price’s robust score to the utter quiet of outer-space.
OVERALL – 4.75/5
Overall, Gravity is certainly one of the better movies, though not the best, to come out of 2013 and between the technological achievements by Alfonso Cuarón and the VFX crew, a taut story and Sandra Bullock’s performance, it’s one heck of a journey that I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s not a movie for everybody and admittedly Cuarón utilization of symbolism is at times a bit laughable, I still recommend this movie if only for a rental.
The Blu-ray released by Warner on the surface seemed to have minimal bonus material, but the 106-minute long documentary examines nearly every aspect of making the movie. The video/audio transfers are both top-notch and still work even for home theaters.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.