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Every couple of years, there is a movie that redefines modern cinema. A movie that raises the bar with technological advancements in areas like sound, cinematography, and visual effects. More often than not, these movies are in the sci-fi or fantasy genre. Some of the best examples are “Terminator 2: Judgement Day,” “Jurassic Park,” “The Matrix,” “The Lord Of The Rings” Trilogy, “King Kong,” and “Avatar.” Last year, the movie “Life Of Pi” pushed the technological envelope yet again, telling a unique story of survival at sea with an unlikely passenger. But 2013 has a new contender for one of the most groundbreaking and challenging films ever made: “Gravity.” Strap on your seat belt moviegoers, and try to remember to breathe.
“Gravity” tells a what-if survival story set in what may be the most difficult environment imaginable: outer space. In her first mission, Dr. Ryan Stone is partnered with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (played by Academy Award® winners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney). This fairly routine mission to repair the Hubble Space Telescope turns into a nightmare as debris from a destroyed Russian satellite orbit the earth, causing a chain reaction of destruction traveling thousands of miles an hour. The debris field wipes out the Explorer Space Shuttle and the other crew, leaving Dr. Stone and Kowalski floating in space alone, with limited oxygen reserves and no radio contact to Houston. Their only chance is to make their way to the International Space Station, and hope that it has not been severely damaged by this cloud of wreckage. Considering the magnitude of the story, Bullock and Clooney manage to carry the weight of the entire movie. Bullock’s ability to portray fear and courage simultaneously as she struggles to stay alive will undoubtedly bring her recognition come awards season. And Clooney succeeds as the mentor and voice of reason in this time of peril.
There have been countless movies that take place outside earth’s atmosphere, but few have ever been able to capture it this realistically. Oscar® nominated director Alfonso Cuarón decided to take a unique approach to recreating outer space. Most notably, “Gravity” focuses on the vast, open darkness and the chilling silence that truly defines space. And Cuarón is no stranger to taking risks when it comes to his filmmaking style. This is the man that came on board the successful “Harry Potter” franchise and completely reinvented it with the third entry in 2004, “Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban.” That film, which many consider to be the best in the series, took a significantly darker tone and more artistic look than the previous two films. It was a decision that changed “Harry Potter” from a kid-friendly movie series into an adult movie series about emotion, fear, love and loss. Alfonso Cuarón was the best thing that happened to the franchise…he allowed it to grow up. Two years later, Cuarón released “Children Of Men,” which garnered him two Oscar® nominations for Editing and Adapted Screenplay. The film was praised for its art direction and harrowing look at our world thrown into chaos when women can no longer give birth. It showed how savage humans can become when they are struggling to prevent their own extinction.
As with his previous films, Alfonso Cuarón takes on multiple roles on “Gravity,” acting as Director, Producer, Co-Editor and Co-Writer. He shares the writing credits with his eldest son, Jonás Cuarón. He reunited with many of his previous collaborators, and worked with some new ones as well. These include five-time Oscar® nominated director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki (“Children Of Men”); editor Mark Sanger (“Children Of Men”); producer David Heyman and costume designer Jany Temime (“Harry Potter” films); production designer Andy Nicholson (“Alice In Wonderland”); Oscar® nominated visual effects supervisor Tim Webber (“The Dark Knight”); and lastly, composer Steven Price (“The World’s End”). This extremely talented group of people set out to create a movie unlike anything ever seen before.
From the opening credits, all the way to the final moments, “Gravity” is expertly crafted on every level. Cuarón clearly tried to make this feel as real as possible, presenting several moments from a first-person perspective inside the space suit. The opening scene feels like a documentary, stretching 17 minutes, all done as one continuous shot. And the use of 3D technology to capture thousands of pieces of floating debris, both out in space and inside the Explorer wreckage and International Space Station, puts the viewer directly in the action. And the way in which the films perfectly balances a lack of sound with an abundance of heavy score makes the tension even higher. I not only expect this movie to receive a multitude of award nominations (including Best Picture), I absolutely believe it will win.
“Gravity” is a blockbuster in every sense of the word. One that immediately grabs you and never lets go. One that has you holding your breath and gripping your seat. Sometimes you honestly forget that you are watching a movie and not a NASA documentary. That is how accurately outer space is recreated, complete with stunning imagery of Earth in the background. And this amazing technology gives the audience several different viewing options. Whatever you do, do not miss this film in 3D. If you want the biggest image around, of course opt for IMAX® 3D. But if you want a completely immersive experience, find a theater that is presenting the film with Dolby ATMOS™. This is without a doubt the best sound system I have ever heard. While IMAX® does an excellent job of surrounding you with massive images and earth-shattering sound, Dolby ATMOS™ utilizes an entirely new sound design, with speakers located above and around the audience. It is the best possible way I can recommend watching “Gravity.” This movie earns my HIGHEST recommendation.