Film Review – Gravity (2013): Jordan’s Take



Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Starring George Clooney, Sandra Bullock

Review by Jordan

Allow me to start this review with a big, bold, but ultimately unquestionable statement: Gravity is one of, if not the most, visually stunning films ever made. Written, edited, produced and directed by Children of Men visionary Alfonso Cuarón, it astonishes the senses with a captivating blend of mind-melting imagery and heart-pounding audio; placing the viewer through masterful use of 3D into the point of view of Mission Specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), as she tries to take hold of life whilst drifting away from all traces of it.

This is dazzling filmmaking and a journey you can’t afford to miss. However, whilst it is impossible to fault it on a production level (seriously, nor would you even think to fault it), there is one area in which it is unfortunately left wanting: lasting emotional connection.

I don’t argue that we needed more time to gain empathy for our heroes, I argue that there could have been more done in the time already allocated. One particular scene (which I believe will gain notoriety for all the wrong reasons) strives for the viewer to connect emotionally with Stone, but it backfires and actually creates a harsher separation, ultimately rendering the film’s ending less satisfying than it should have been. This is obviously not Gravity’s forte, and if an emotional centre had been successfully established then I would defy anyone to say a bad word about it, but as it stands I was left feeling a little cold when in order for it to be the perfect cinema experience I needed a little more warmth.

The plot is simple but utterly original. Two astronauts: the experienced, confident Matt Kowalski (George Clooney, as smooth as always) and rookie medical expert Stone (Bullock) become separated from their shuttle after the debris of a destroyed Russian satellite causes a chain-reaction of chaos in their orbit, and with oxygen rapidly running-out, communications down and another wave of debris only 90 minutes away, they strive for survival and ultimately to return home.

Despite its setting and the synopsis just mentioned, Gravity is not a science-fiction film. It is a taut thriller that shares more in common with Chris Kentis’ terrifying shark nightmare Open Water (2003) than it does Apollo 13 or Alien; a taut journey with a view to die for, albeit with the flaw previously mentioned. It’s possible that another way to trigger a deeper connection would’ve been to add more Clooney and subtract a portion of Bullock – Speed (1994) introduced her as an American sweetheart, but she is seriously limited in her dramatic range where Clooney can effortlessly succeed and this irrevocably affects the 3rd potion of the film. Ultimately though? Even if the story featured Ewoks and starred Gary Busey it would still demand a trip to the cinema (actually, maybe even more so in that case…), as the visual effects, cinematography and directing really are out of this world.

Cuarón’s passion project is a film impossible to dislike, and if you don’t catch it in 3D at the cinema then don’t worry about kicking yourself, I’ll kick you for you.

4 “woof woofs” out of 5

50 responses to “Film Review – Gravity (2013): Jordan’s Take

  1. This movie was just stunning and I totally agree with everything you said (wulda given it a 4.5 but eh)
    I honestly wouldn’t be surprised to see it on one of those top ten movie lists in a few years.

    • Ha, you’ll have to check back in tomorrow to see what Eddie rates it. I think you might be spot on there; it will certainly always be regarded as the film with the best use of 3D I feel.

  2. Got me even more intrigued with the opening statement.

    However.. its a shame bullock couldn’t carry it and if its all visual and no heart I fear I may not like it as much you.

    Pretty well part of the reason im not a fan of malick – visuals, while they definitely add to the experience are second to story telling for me.

    Will see how many woofs I give it when I get the chance to see it..

    • Yeah Bullock and the lack of emotional connection are what bring it down to earth a bit, but with a short 90 minute run time it doesn’t hamper the entertainment value.
      Highly recommend catching it at the flicks!!

  3. I agree with you man, Nice review! “and if an emotional centre had been successfully established then I would defy anyone to say a bad word about it,” is spot on!

  4. I recently saw the trailer in 3D on an IMAX screen. Wow! If there’s one film this year to make actual “good” use of 3D it seems like this would be it.

  5. When I first saw the trailer, I thought it was for a Video Game. It does look amazing but I could not see how it would have a plot.

    Does the 3D actually work? Most 3D in cinema today is a bodged job and added to the title just so they can add an extra £2.50 onto the price. The only time I have seen a 3D film in the current 3D Generation that worked was Pacific Rim.

      • You mentioned Pacific Rim working in 3-d I was merely agreeing 🙂

        Second to that I was saying the 3d in Gravity is as good if not even better than what was seen in Pacific Rim.

      • Pacific Rim’s 3D was amazing (despite being a post-convert job), it’s great to hear that Gravity’s post-convert job is as good as Pacific Rim. But do you really need to see it in 3D? After all, aren’t you just looking out into the blackness of space?

      • Man thats what adds to it! Its very rare that a film takes you on a journey floating through space, so you want to be as immersed as possible. Being set in space means no blurry fast paced action… perfect.

  6. Usually when someone says, “stunning visuals/cinematography” – my first thought is that the film must be so boring that all you could look at was the camerawork. However having seen the trailer, I can imagine that it would take centre stage, no matter who was acting in it (including said ewoks). Still, I’m looking forward to it in December (when it comes out here in Japan).

  7. I haven’t seen this yet, but I would like to point out that ‘a lasting emotional impact’ can be achieved with visual beauty alone. How else would you explain all the people that visit the Grand Canyon every year? or Art? or almost every Stanley Kubrick film? Within this age of super-special-fx, it is a feat just to get veiwers in awe of anything visual. Just something to think about. 🙂

    • I certainly like that thought! And of course many people would have connected with Gravity to a far greater extent than me; some ranking it among their favourite films already. I’m keen to hear your thoughts when you catch it.

    • As visually stunning as Kubrick films are, I think its unfair to say that a lasting emotional impact is produced only by the visuals. With something like A Clockwork Orange for example, the use of music combined with visuals and acting creates that impact

      • Yeah, you’re right, not just the visuals, the music makes a strong impact too. What I was referring to was a film can still have an emotional impact even if it doesn’t have a complex plot.

  8. Great review! While I disagree about Bullock (I thought she was great, just let down by some of the lines she was given – the dog howling was poignant to begin with but went on too long), I can’t disagree with the technical achievement. Not only did it make me forget that these were actors on a set and not actually floating in space, I think it’s a momentous film to contradict the nay-sayers (of which I’ve been in the past) who argue that the modern world of digital-effects cinema will never produce a truly artistic film.

    Also one of the best movie scores ever written, and I’ve been listening to it on repeat since I saw the film.

    • It’s incredible how realistic it all felt! So long as there was no more barking or (SPOILER ALERT) swimming in spacesuits I could’ve easily spent another hour floating around in space. Agree about the musical score as well, complimented the action very well.

  9. great comment at the end about catching this in 3D. I usually hate it, but this is far and away the best movie I’ve seen utilize it. My reasons for disliking parts of this movie was strictly out of a realism/probability aspect. A bit cynical, but still enjoyed the view.

    • Yeah it is for sure; I am interested to see what effect it will have on home viewing – whether or not the crispness of blu-ray makes up for the complete immersion at the cinema.
      Ha, not always bad to be cynical at the movies.

  10. Yes, thanks for giving a shout out to “Open Water.” It’s a very appropriate comparison, but I found “OW” to be even bleaker in tone. I think “OW” sets up that emotional center you wanted a little better than “Gravity” does.
    BTW, thanks for following my blog. I’m pretty new at this game. It’s nice to meet guys who love film too.

  11. Nice review, although I didn’t think Sandra Bullock was that bad! I agree that the emotional link is weak, but it’s still there, at least for me. And I am ashamed to admit my mistake – I watched it in 2d (and even as I was sitting there after the opening sequence, I was already kicking myself). I shall correct that mistake soon, though, and will be watching it again in 3D.

  12. Bullock wasn’t that bad in my eyes. Like you, I wish there was a little more Clooney, but Bullocks did enough to keep me interested until the end. I was rooting for Bullock’s character, and I enjoyed the end. I didn’t really feel what you felt the movie lacked.

    But you hit it right on the nose with the visual experience. Seeing this film in anything less than 3D would be a huge mistake. I saw it in 3D and I still want to experience again in IMAX 3D. Great Review!

  13. Thanks for liking my posts on Gravity.

    I agree that Gravity with your post that it is original and I’m glad it’s not a science fiction movie cos’ I’m not a science fiction fan.

    It’s an awesome film, everyone should go and watch it. And it definitely does deserve 4 “woofs woofs”. 🙂

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  18. As an avid 2001: A Space Odyssey fan, I almost expected to be disappointed going in to see this one, but was blown away by the stunning visuals. I don’t think the flaws in emotional development of the characters matter too much in the grand scheme of things, as this is primarily a visual film and the characters are almost meant to be lost on the huge stage they play on

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