GRAVITY, the film, and why it’s so important – (SPOILER FREE)

I’m curious how many of you have seen the new, number-one film GRAVITY, starring Sandra Bullock? I had heard good buzz so I went in with high expectations but it moved me beyond expectations. I’ll forgo discussing the plot because this film is best experienced as purely as possible.

First, lets get the accuracy issues out of the way. Mark Uhran, who was a director of NASA’s International Space Station (ISS) division said, "My first reaction was that the cinematography was of spectacular realism. I've never seen that done before."

Buzz Aldrin and others have commented on this and many agree it is the most realistic fictional space film to date. Of course, that doesn’t mean it is 100 percent accurate. Sandra’s hair doesn’t float around and she doesn’t wear an adult diaper, I get it. I won’t go into any inaccuracies that would reveal plot points but you can read about those after you’ve seen the movie. Obviously, the director, Alfonso Cuaron, (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) had to make some artistic choices for the sake of the story. And I’m glad he did.

I am very happy to set aside some inaccuracies to be able to feel the emotions and wonder I felt while watching this film. To be able to go to space, in effect, and see the beauty of it inside a thriller that puts me on the edge of my seat, that’s what I want. The script is tight – there’s just enough backstory to enable you to bond with the characters – and the direction is elegant. Cuaron is not afraid of long, silent, lyrical moments. The 3D, which I hate most of the time, works here because it’s essential to making you feel completely immersed, as if you are wearing her helmet, often seeing space the way the character is seeing it.

And it is that identification, the roller-coaster ride of emotions that make this so good. When it was over, I was drained but wanted to see it again. And I’m sure I will.

Why is this movie so important? Buzz Aldrin said it best:

“We're in a very precarious position of losing all the advancements we've made in space that we did 40 years ago, 50 years ago. From my perspective, this movie couldn't have come at a better time to really stimulate the public.”

Amazing fact: Bullock is afraid of flying

So the parabolic airplane flights that were used for Apollo 13 were not an option. The 30 second limit would have been too short anyway for the long takes seen in Gravity. Instead, they used a 12-wire suspension system, and then filmed with robotic cameras while puppeteers pulled their strings. Other scenes were shot with Bullock on a variety of rigs set up on a turntable. And a special Light Box was invented to handle the close-ups. All this meant that Bullock had to be a Cirque-du-Soleil acrobat while she was acting. The entire film is head-shakingly amazing.

What it might have been:

Robert Downey Jr. backed out of the Clooney role due to scheduling conflicts. The first actors approached for Bullock’s part were Natalie Portman, Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson, and Blake Lively.

Did you see it? Can you imagine any of those actors in the roles?

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Derek J Rogers said...

Well said, Lissa. I just saw Gravity and was enthralled. 90 minutes never went by so fast!

slcard said...

I've been looking forward to seeing this movie anyway, but this really makes it sounds extra special. Now I can't wait! Thanks for the great review!

GinaRosati said...

I just saw GRAVITY today, and I thought it was phenomenal in many ways. What made me sad was that about 3 hours before I saw it, I read a review from someone who was upfront about her feminist views about the movie, and I don't agree. I thought the director hit all the marks expected in script writing (without which this movie would not have been made) and I thought Sandra Bullock did an excellent acting job, especially when you consider how much time she must have spent alone in front of a blue screen. Yes, there were a few instances where the viewer had to "suspend disbelief" but overall, any of us who have ever experienced true terror or feared for our lives can appreciate the emotion that went into this movie rather than rant about how a woman who is smart enough to be chosen by NASA shouldn't be told how to breathe by George Clooney.

Lissa Price said...

Thank you for the thoughts, all. Gina, that one really got me. I totally agree with you. The film is so pro-female that it's missing the bigger picture to focus on a small thing like that. You need character interaction and he was the more experienced astronaut.