Jeff's Reviews

Thoughts on every movie I've ever seen.

Gravity (2013)

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Orto Ignatiussen


Cuarón puts together something that is beautiful and incredibly tense.

Might be the only movie I’ve seen with essentially a cast of two. Bullock delivers a refreshingly raw performance. And she looks great. After imagining that the role would have been good for Nathalie Portman, it was interesting to learn that she was in fact the first choice for the role.

After his bold and underrated performance as an astronaut in Solaris, I was hoping from something a bit more cerebral from Clooney. In this movie, my biggest criticism is his dialogue (followed closely by the dialogue from his radio cronies in Houston). It’s obvious that Kowalski is supposed to bring personality to the movie, but he keeps telling stories and making jokes and wising off with every one of his precious breaths. Surely, an astronaut who is:

  1. trying to set an endurance record for spacewalks,
  2. testing out experimental equipment,
  3. being bombarded by debris traveling at 20,000 MPH,
  4. watching his ship get utterly destroyed,
  5. seeing three of his companions frozen and impaled, and
  6. trying to save the life of his only surviving companion

can be serious for a moment? It really would have helped things along dramatically.

Why would Kowalski continue to engage Stone in conversation when she is critically low on oxygen? Surely, talking consumes more oxygen than light breathing. Kowalski’s probing also had her on the verge of tears. If Stone had started sobbing uncontrollably, that certainly would have been it for her. Way to go Kowalski, you talked so much that you killed her.

The effects are sensational, blended seamlessly with the actors real faces and bodies. The globules of floating liquid get a bit gimmicky, though, especially when they visibly hit the camera. The movie is a Steadicam operator’s wet dream. Or maybe crane operator. I’m stumped as to how they actually shot this.

Lots of allegorical imagery exploring the idea of rebirth. The most obvious is a particularly beautiful shot of a weightless Stone folding up into a fetal position in a womb-like capsule for an extended take. There’s also Stone’s tether as an umbilical cord, the shot of her stripping off underwater, a Baptismal emergence from the sea, and an amphibious crawl onto the shore.

Immediately after the film’s release, out came the articles citing its scientific inaccuracies by those who are much smarter and much more critical than me. Some of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s more interesting observations:

  • “Why Bullock’s hair, in otherwise convincing zero-G scenes, did not float freely on her head.”
  • “Why Bullock, a medical Doctor, is servicing the Hubble Space Telescope.”
  • “How Hubble (350mi up) ISS (230mi up) & a Chinese Space Station are all in sight lines of one another.”
  • “Satellite communications were disrupted at 230 mi up, but communications satellites orbit 100x higher.”
  • “Astronaut Clooney informs medical doctor Bullock what happens medically during oxygen deprivation.”

Time’s Jeffrey Kluger also notes that while Bullock looks sleek in a crop top and boxer briefs, astronauts returning from a spacewalk are typically covered in sweat and wearing an adult diaper. I wonder if Cuarón had scientist and astronaut advisors on board, and if he did, why he chose to bend the truth when he did.

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