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by Leonard Maltin
October 4, 2013 12:06 AM
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Sandra Bullock-George Clooney-680
Photo courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Gravity is a knockout. It’s also a rare example of a mainstream movie that defies pigeonholing. It is science-fiction? Yes, in the broadest sense, but it’s the fundamental human story that matters most. Is it a showcase for dazzling visual effects? Yes again, but they exist to illustrate (as seamlessly as possible) the main character’s journey, not to show off a lot of cinematic bells and whistles. Is it a highbrow think-piece in the tradition of 2001: A Space Odyssey or simply a piece of entertainment? The answer is simple: it’s both. Co-screenwriter Jonás Cuarón says he wanted to take audiences on a thrill ride but admits that he and his father (director and screenwriting partner Alfonso Cuarón) were thinking in larger, metaphoric terms as well.

In many ways the most important ingredient in Gravity is Sandra Bullock. Without her movie-star charisma and everywoman relatability, the film wouldn’t work nearly as well as it does. It is essential that we identify with her character and connect with her roller-coaster swell of feelings as she finds herself adrift in outer space. I hesitate to describe her adventure any further, as I think audiences should experience the journey for themselves.

George Clooney is ideal as her lighthearted partner in the space mission; his casting is as canny as Bullock’s. Cuarón counts on the friendly, familiar personas of these stars to make us feel comfortable as we begin our odyssey into the unknown.

It takes a supremely confident filmmaker to trust his content (and cast) by shooting long, unbroken takes, but that is the visual hallmark of this daring film. Cuarón doesn’t feel the need to show off, and he knows that Bullock and Clooney will hold our attention. (I can’t wait to see the making-of documentary to learn how he and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki accomplished their goals, using unprecedented techniques and custom-made machinery.

Gravity is a genuine original in every possible way: involving and immersive, moving and memorable. It’s definitely worth seeing in 3-D, although the real dimensionality lies in the concept and the screenplay as much as any photographic technique.

For once, at least, the hype over a new Hollywood movie is justified.




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  • Jolly | October 29, 2013 8:22 PMReply

    I should first start by saying that due to a lack of depth perception (for the most part), 3D is, for me, no different than seeing a regular movie. However, I did just finish seeing "Gravity", and whether in 3D or 2D, it is this writer's opinion that the writers and others tasked with the story-line decided to ask for a HUGE suspension of disbelief, hoping that the special effects would compensate for the wholly unbelievable story line. As the old saying goes, you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, and "Gravity" is certainly a prime example of that. I have nothing against Bullock or Clooney, only with the absurdity of the actions in the film. As far as I'm concerned if you want to see "Gravity" out of curiosity, wait til it's out on DVD and save yourself the 10 bucks plus popcorn and soda costs by skipping it in a theater. Better yet, go see "Apollo 13" again to see what a tight plot and good acting can accomplish.

  • Rudy Chavez | October 11, 2013 7:11 AMReply

    Can't wait for the day when Sandra Bullock gets burn out and goes on a 10-year sabbatical (even better if she retires.) She's all over the place, and she's way overrated. As much as I enjoy movies with George Clooney, I'm going to pass on this one. Furthermore, it's too bad the movie wasn't shot in space and, somehow, Bullock got lost up there -- for good.

  • William Wood | October 7, 2013 4:12 PMReply

    To tell you the truth, I had been looking forward to seeing this film ever since I left the theatre when Children of Men played. Seeing that he's tackled my favourite genre, science fiction, from a second angle after his enthralling 2006 attempt quite excited me, and I can't wait to see it even though I must admit being nonplussed by the unsurprising casting.

  • William Howe | October 7, 2013 11:58 PM

    I'm frankly flabbergasted you were nonplussed by something unsurprising.

  • David | October 6, 2013 12:31 AMReply

    This is the golden age of t.v. but "Gravity" is proof that gifted filmmakers and charismatic stars can still make the film experience truly unique. No twittering during this film. As always Leonard thanks for your take.

  • Anonymous | October 6, 2013 12:53 PM

    lol. There are still good shows, but you have to ignore 90% of the crap on TV to say we are in a "Golden Age" of television.

  • will | October 5, 2013 8:49 AMReply

    ok so what's your point about if sandra b wasn't in the movie it would work nearly as well. but she is in the movie and it does work really well. isnt that like saying if marlon brando wasn't in the God father it wouldnt work nearly as well... say if tom hanks was the god father...well...

  • ScienceRules | October 4, 2013 11:47 PMReply

    Movie "Gravity", cinematography great, but content absurd.

  • William Told | October 8, 2013 12:14 AM

    Babaganoush, allow me to elaborate for you: First of all, he is speaking of the movie called Gravity. He then makes the point that the cinematography is great, which in this case probably means it is notable or exceptional. His final point is that the content of the movie is absurd. This is a bit more problematic, but he's almost certainly commenting on one of a few things. The most likely, given his moniker, is that a lot of the details in the film (such as the direction in which orbital debris moved) was significantly out of step reality in a way that took him out of the movie. The second is that the characters were unbelievable or reacted in ways that were incongruous with his understanding of human psychology and it took him out of the movie. The third and, I'll admit, least likely is that he thought the content was reflective of the general inability to reconcile the human condition with rationality. Again, my money's on the first. Hope this helps! I admit it's still not useful in any objectively meaningful sense, but hey, reviews are always inherently absurd :)

  • babaganoush | October 6, 2013 2:38 PM

    Useless comment without elaboration.

  • Luke | October 4, 2013 11:22 PMReply

    Excelent review!
    This is a breakthrough kind of film, a film that surely it will be subject of study over cinema universities. Cuaron is a genius.
    It have been years since the last time of going to the movie theater and watch a film and you can share the experience of such different, vivid and organic emotions. It was all you just said, its involving, immersing, moving and memorable.
    Some people would said its a simple story, a linear one, but you could go as deep as YOU like, it,s up to you, it has many layers if you want to see them. Or just enjoy the incredible realistic space journey like you where there. That is the pure spirit of cinema.

  • Norm | October 4, 2013 5:31 PMReply

    hhhmmm, suppose if I want to see an Actor float in space, there is always Barbarella..
    LM's review didn't convince me that Sandra or George are tethered well enough to hold a one-dimensional story line together...pass.

  • Izzy | October 5, 2013 9:43 AM

    I'm assuming you already made up your mind that you weren't going to see this before reading Leonard Maltin's review.

  • James Knuttel | October 4, 2013 4:50 PMReply

    Hi, Leonard.

    I just saw "Gravity" this afternoon. I agree with you - it's a knockout film, one of the best I've seen in a long time.

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