Monday, December 15, 2014

Film Review: Gravity (2013)

Gravity (Review)
United States/United Kingdom/2013
Format Viewed For Review: Blu-ray (Warner Home Video)
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...this is technical masterpiece, but a narrative disappointment."

The NASA space shuttle Explorer is hit by debris from a destroyed satellite causing Dr. Ryan Stone (Butterfingers Sandra Bullock) and astronaut George Clooney Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) to spiral out of control...

Gravity is a very simple film. The story begins with the Explorer being hit by debris from a destroyed Russian satellite. Ryan and Matt spiral freely away from the spaceship and eventually reconnect. The rest of the film follows the survivors as they try to get back home. That's it. Sure, the story tries to develop some character, but that's really the gist of the film. The character freely spirals in space, admits defeat, realizes she can survive, spirals in space, admits defeat, and so on -- it's a repetitious cycle, indeed. The ending of the film is also a bit underwhelming -- it didn't land for me. (You get it?) The story feels like a short film unnecessarily stretched into a feature-length runtime. The hour and a half runtime (which is actually a bit less with credits) also feels like two-hours.

As a thriller, the film (mostly) works well. There's plenty of suspense, tension, and even terror in this film. The introduction of this film is the perfect example of this blend -- it's almost literally breathtaking. I was at the edge of my seat and clenching my chest for the first 30 minutes. There are many other suspenseful scenes, including many that echo the intro, but some don't work, including those that simply recycle the intro. The most disappointing of these, however, are those scenes that use fabricated suspense. This is the type of suspense that relies on plot contrivances, such as the ridiculously incompetent lead, Ryan.

This type of fabricated or contrived suspense works, don't get me wrong, but it's not as effective as genuine suspense. (It's also easy to complain about.) I don't know how many times Ryan did something incompetent or clumsy that caused this type of suspense. She can't seem to hang on to anything and she doesn't seem to know how to do anything -- it seems pretty damn negligent to let someone participate in these dangerous mission without even passing a simulator, don't you think? Maybe I'm nitpicking, but I don't think I should be able to poke into a film so easily. (which is why I won't complain about the scientific inaccuracies.)

As for the acting, it's good. Sandra Bullock is mostly great, but I don't think she nailed some of the emotional notes, like the frustration her character feels during a certain scene. (Some of her scenes reminded me of Shia LaBeouf's "No, no, no, no" scenes.) This is a film where George Clooney plays George Clooney. He's charming and charismatic, as usual, but there not much else in this performance. The film is technically marvelous, though. The cinematography is awe-inspiring. The camerawork is magnificent. The special effects are stupendous. I'd be lying to myself if I said this film was technically flawed. Director Alfonso CuarĂ³n delivers a suspenseful film with impeccable technical precision. However, the film does feel a bit hollow and oddly paced, and its blatant attempts at symbolism don't help.

Overall, Gravity is a good film. I didn't love it and I didn't hate it; it has its fair share of greatness and flaws. To me: this is technical masterpiece, but a narrative disappointment. As much as the film awed me with its technical genius, it disappointed me with its longwinded and repetitive story. And, although I appreciate the attempts at character and symbolism, it hardly worked. So, let me word this one more way, in case I wasn't clear: I had a good time, but the story is flawed. If you want a blockbuster film with spectacular visuals and some great suspense, fabricated or otherwise, this film is for you. I'd even recommend you solely watch it for the visuals, but don't expect the story to match it.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence.

No comments:

Post a Comment