Monday 3 March 2014

Today's Review: Gravity

Space is... well, space. It's a dark, empty void, devoid of oxygen, sound, life. So what are we doing messing around up there? Things are bound to go wrong, and Gravity is a movie in which everything goes wrong. It follows Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first mission into space, accompanied by grizzly space veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). During a space walk, and with very little warning, the Russians launch missiles at a defunct satellite, sending off a cascade of deadly space debris that leaves Stone and Kowalski floating through space, with almost no chance of survival. Hope is on the horizon, or rather slightly above the horizon, in the form of other space stations orbiting Earth. But with oxygen running out, diminishing methods of propelling themselves, and more inevitable strikes from the debris orbiting the planet, the astronauts must attempt to survive, against all odds.

I wasn't sure what to expect from this movie. The vast majority of comments I'd heard about it were concerned with how nice it looked, so I wasn't too convinced there would be much substance. One thing's for sure, Gravity is absolutely beautiful. Although you may think that a movie set in space would be dark and boring, the sky(?) is full of stars, and many glimpses of Earth are shown throughout, depicting beautiful terrain, sunrises and the Northern Lights. Explosions and spinning astronauts, while obviously the product of CGI, look entirely realistic. Even the deadly space debris is a sight to behold, and it's all beautifully portrayed with great use of 3D. But a movie can't just get by on its good looks, how does the rest of it stack up to the visuals?

There are only a few characters in this movie, but they all do a fantastic job. Clooney is a great leader, while Bullock switches from panicked, to serene, to determined at several points throughout, and never breaks out of her character. The cast is small, and perhaps not even that important in the grand scheme of things, but it's done right.

The star of the show, besides the visuals, is the sound. I was skeptical at first, as at the beginning words flash up on the screen stating that no sound can be heard in space, before immediately cutting to a ship flying through space accompanied by a low hum. But I soon learned this was just part of the fantastic ambient soundtrack. The actual sound effects heard throughout the film belong only to the characters themselves, through their radios or in oxygenated areas. Out in space, there is no sound, which is especially profound in some of the explosive action sequences where a lot is happening visually but there is no sound to go with it. It probably would seem a little off, were it not for the soundtrack pumping out the best music for every moment. In one intense scene in particular, I found the beat of the backing track was matching my heartbeat, and I felt totally immersed in what I was watching. That's quite a rare thing.

Gravity is a fantastic movie. It looks great, it sounds great, and there's never a dull moment, just a few quiet ones that are almost instantly ripped away. It's a heart racing sci-fi disaster movie, and it's well worth a watch.

My rating: 5/5

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