‘Gravity’ Review

Published 10 months ago by , Updated January 2nd, 2014 at 7:12 pm,

Gravity Reviews Starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock directed by Alfonso Cuaron Gravity Review

Gravity tells the harrowing account of specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a scientist-turned-fledgling astronaut working on a space station that is suddenly obliterated by an onslaught of space debris. In the midst of the calamity Ryan is thrown “off structure” and into vastness of space, with only veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) still able to hear her cries for help.

What follows next is a step-by-meticulous-step bid for survival in the harsh realm of the cosmos, as Ryan must not only best physical obstacles, but also the mental/spiritual obstacles standing between her and the will to survive.

The brainchild of acclaimed Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón (Harry Potter 3Children of Men), Gravity is nothing less than a stunning visual achievement wrapped around a solid storyline and yet another surprisingly good performance from Sandra Bullock. In short: it is one of the top cinematic experiences of the year (so far) – arguably one of the top cinematic achievements of the last few years.

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in Gravity Gravity Review

George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in ‘Gravity’

From the very first segment – a one-take tracking shot that clocks in at approximately 10 – 15 minutes – it is clear that, visually speaking, Curaón has created an experience unlike anything previously seen in cinema. It’s likely that film school essays will be written on this film for years to come, so to keep things in simple perspective: Cuarón is already hailed as one of the few true auteurs in modern cinema, and this is definitely his masterpiece. From the breathtaking cinematography and photography, to the impossible (but astounding) camera movements – to the visual concepts and set pieces that make genius use of outer space physics – this is directorial talent and imagination on a whole other scale.

Even when the technology hits a wall (some moments in the film fall into that CGI “valley of the uncanny”), the ambition of what’s being done, at the level it’s being done, fills in for the deficiencies in F/X.  3D viewing is a must, IMAX if you can. Gravity is prime example of what so many film fans want: new filmmaking formats (like 3D IMAX) actually being used to further expand and push the boundaries of cinematic art and storytelling. And thanks to Cuarón, it’s all masterfully handled in this film.

Gravity IMAX 3D Visual FX Effects Gravity Review

Usually I ‘m not one to address a film’s sound design in a review – but with Gravity it is a must. The filmmakers’ understanding of their unique setting (space) allows them to play with the relativity between sound and visuals in a way that few other films get the opportunity to. Immense danger flies in on silent wings; the only rhythm to a scene of blockbuster-style destruction is the breath and whimpers of the lead actress, etc. This is a movie that commands the ear’s attention as much as it does the eye’s, and the interplay between the sound effects and composer Steven Price’s (The World’s EndAttack the Block) grandiose score  - think Kubrick meets Hans Zimmer –  elevates everything that Cuarón is doing visually, resulting in a complete feast of sensory experience.

Gravity is a landmark in filmmaking, sure, but on paper the story it tells is (slightly) less remarkable. The script was co-written by Cuarón and his son Jonás; it is, admittedly, a very lean and efficient piece of thrilling dramatic storytelling, with the writers also managing to inject some larger themes and deeper emotions into the proceedings. However, when one pulls back and examines it, Gravity is also a somewhat standard point-A-to-B survival thriller, which relies on many familiar  - at times cliche – sub-genre tropes.

Sandra Bullock in Gravity2 Gravity Review

When the chase is on, things are great; when we stop for those inevitable moments of breath-catching (pun intended), the movie is still good, just not great. And because we are watching a chain of A-B-C disasters and challenges unfold into one another, moments of breath-catching in the film (a.k.a., clearly marked moments of character and thematic development) tend feel even more extraneous and melodramatic – especially when there is just one character onscreen to juggle them. Still, a film does require narrative development and the Cuaróns find a pretty strong emotional through-line to follow; however, when the action and visuals take a back seat, Gravity definitely loses some of its gravitas, and could arguably be criticized as watching Sandra Bullock float around space for an hour and a half (though such reductive thinking would be highly specious, given the revolutionary design and execution of the film).

Thankfully, the cost of those developmental moments is tapered by another good performance from Bullock. The actress proves to be a smart choice, in that she is able to find the pitch-perfect balance required to play a character who is normally highly-intelligent, resourceful, witty (and deeply damaged), but has been thrown into a situation of unimaginable panic and fear. The role requires everything from multi-layered and subtle emoting (often in close-up camera frame) to some dizzying “wire-fu” acrobatics, and Bullock delivers on all fronts in highly convincing and impressive fashion. (NOTE: Sigourney Weaver never had worry about a three-dimensional scene in nothing but her space skivvies, but Bullock manages to own that moment, too!)

George Clooney in Gravity Gravity Review

As the only other actor we really see onscreen, Clooney is definitely going to be the more divisive element of the film. The character of Matt Kowalski is a smart and suave foil to Stone’s  inexperienced and panic-stricken character; however, what is going to distract some people is the fact that they are ostensibly watching George Clooney riffing on his own suave-guy persona, down to mid-crisis flirtations with his leading lady. Depending on how you feel about Clooney, the acting choice could irk you; then again, Kowalski does bringing the only real levity and relief from a lot of well-staged tension, and Clooney does gallows humor pretty well, so take all that for what it’s worth.

(NOTE: Yes, that voice from Mission Control you hear in the film is actor Ed Harris, in case it was bugging you.)

In the end, Gravity is one of those movie events that comes around once in a great while to remind us why theatrical viewing still holds potential for a unique and unequaled cinematic experience. As a story and character vehicle for Bullock, it would still rate as a four-star movie – but given what Cuarón has done here for film as a medium, Gravity is nothing less than a five-star 2001 space odyssey for a whole new generation of movie lovers. Take the ride.

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Gravity is now in theaters. Is is 90 minutes long and is Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.

Want to hear the Screen Rant Editors discuss the film? Then check out our Gravity episode of the Screen Rant Underground Podcast.

Follow me @ppnkof 

Our Rating:

5 out of 5
(Masterpiece)

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96 Comments

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  1. Wow. I expected better. Plot is thin. The usual damsel in distress with a sassy guy side kick. Lots of cliches. A very long hour and a half. Am I the only one who found it boring and predictable? I suppose the visuals were good.

    • Dude! You’re not alone! I though I was the only one who thought this movie was boring… the whole plot could’ve been told in just half an hour, LOL. So little story in so much time.

      • I totally agree. I was let down from all the hype. Sure visually it was great but story was predictable. there wasn’t much acting at all in this movie actually. I’m stumped by all the amazing reviews?!?!?! I was telling my Girlfriend what was going to happen before it happened. lol.

        • I didn’t like it either. It was so overly sentimental.

    • I agree completely. Gorgeous cinematography, no question. And Bullock (and yes, Clooney too) provided very competent performances with what they were given. But that’s just it. They weren’t given much.

      The reviewer (Mr. Outlaw) comments: “As a story and character vehicle for Bullock, it would still rate as a four-star movie…”. To which I disagree. As it was, it was a 4-star movie. Without the stunning visuals, it would be lucky to earn a 3.5, probably more like a 3.

      Also, not usually one to harp on plot holes, but I have to make an exception with Gravity. The gaping plot hole surrounding one of the only key plot points in the movie was hard to get past (as has been pointed out elsewhere). It simply made no sense for Kowalski to let go to improve Stone’s chances at remaining attached to the Russian station. They made such a show of portraying how physics in space work (due to there being little gravity and no air)and then decide to throw most of it out the window so that Kowalski can be a hero and conveniently exit the upcoming scenes so Bullock can take center stage. Bitter pill indeed.

      The other thing that annoyed me was that, prior to finding out that the Russian capsule was out of fuel, Stone decided to strip off all of here gear and just chill out for a while, instead of trying to get to the capsule/shuttle in time to take it out to look for Kowalski prior to attempting re-entry…

      Stunning. Gorgeous. Good direction and decent acting (given what little there was to work with). But good visuals alone does not make a 5-star film. But then I didn’t see it in 3D.

  2. my wife got nauseated during the opening shots of Silence of the Lambs and Cliffhanger, so I suspect she should probably avoid this.

  3. Ah, good thing I didn’t read the comments before then, as it appears someone has spoiled the whole movie, lol. Well, your review has pointed out the one thing I feared about this movie, George Clooney. So it appears his smugness has come through just like I expected. I just try to avoid contributing any of my money to any of his movies, even if it’s supposed to be good… I would have waited for a free redbox rental for this movie in that case. But I guess we’ll see…

  4. Kofi owes me ten bucks. The previews made the movie look boring, but this review intrigued me, so I went. Gravity was like being in space; I lost oxygen to my brain and had a nap. BORING

    This damsel in distress has been done before and there was nothing innovative about this movie. Yes it is gorgeous, but that does not cover up for the borefest. If you go to see it, take your pillow.

    • This movie is like a great poem. It gives you what you are willing to take away from it! It doesn’t hit you over the head with themes and exposition.

      • A Masterpiece catharsis. I loved it, every single minute of it.

      • Doesn’t hit you over the head with themes? The shot of her floating in zero g like a fetus with an umbilical cord and then crawling her way out of a flooded escape pod aka womb? That whole rebirth symbolism didn’t seem in any way heavy handed to you?

      • Hit you over the head is exactly what it does! There is no subtlety in this movie.

  5. Scanned the comments sections, typical hater reviews, I dont like Clooney, I dont like the damsel in distress scenario. Have any of you haters actually seen this brilliant movie? Its captivating, its suspenseful a visual marvel. What do you expect? The characters are trapped in space?????

    • ***SPOILER ALERT***

      Ok please explain the following to me:

      1. Why did Clooney keep asking her questions when she was supposed to be conserving her oxygen?
      2. Why could she not get in touch with any space agency, then miraculously get through to a Chinese man with a dog and a baby? (Then proceed to bark at aforementioned Chinese man)
      3. How did she manage to operate a space escape pod with probably thousands of controls by playing Eeny, meeny, miny, moe?
      4. if she was a trained astronaut, why did she operate a fire extinguisher in the space station and not realise it would act as a propulsion system?

      This movie was essentially “buried” only set in space and with stunning visuals. Both movies have really sh*t and annoying actors, alone and trying to survive with only their terrible acting for company!

      The plot: Debris hits a shuttle, stranding the terrible actor. The terrible actor then hops over to another space station where it is also hit with debris. The terrible actor then hops over to another space station and escapes, the end.

      Take away the visuals (which were amazing), and this film is one of the sh*ttiest and most embarrassing films of all time.

      • Spot on review, visually stunning, but what happened to the crocodile at the end in the lake & how did she not manage to land on the White House lawn.

  6. Am I the only one who found this movie extremely short!? lol
    I mean the character development was just way farfetched. one moment sandra is totally just on the verge of giving up and the next she a star ship trooper… I was just like what?

    – SPOILERS –

    Also was the audience suppose to feel sad for clooney as he drifted away. after like a what 5 min acquaintance with his character did the movie expect just to shed tears for a character we hardly knew. i mean the set up for that scene was very dramatic for a character that had so little screen time. The movie needed at least 30 mins of building up to have the impact it was going for, but it had none of that.

    It’s a great movie in the since that if the pacing was there it would have been better balanced, but I felt like it was gone in a single rush of wind.

    • if you want that, go watch titanic

  7. I saw gravity last night and I loved it. It may not be for everyone, however for me it was amazing. The use of long tracking shots was impressive to say the least. My wife and I saw it in 3D and enjoyed it. The simplicity of the story was actually refreshing. Go so the movie!

  8. After reading numerous reviews about “Gravity”, I went to watch it in IMAX 3D. I’ve left theater highly disappointed. It seems to me that all the praise this movie gets is based on visuals, which it deserves, but story is mediocre at best. It is like getting a cornetto without ice cream in it.

  9. Five out of Five. 5 out of 5. Mercy!
    I may have just been Outlawed

    The last time this happened was The Great Gatsby
    where Kofi’s review changed my mind on seeing it.
    As it turned out I liked it very much despite my
    inclination that I would highly dislike the film.

    Now here we have George Clooney.
    Who is always George Clooney and an
    actor I avoid and Sandra Bullock, another
    I have avoided since she is just so annoying.

    But, I as I say, I may have been Outlawed.

    Outlaw
    —vb
    to put (a person) outside the law of his predisposition and
    to change his position on a subject by compelling argument.
    [C2013: Origin Kofi Outlaw, influential film writer]

  10. This film is simply a must see, especially for anyone that is a human spaceflight zealot like myself. LOTS of things happening here that deal with real, potential space peril, that slap down paradigms of “in space flight”ness that I really appreciated. Pointing to a “spot” in space and getting there actually have hazard here and I’m glad that, and physics, and wow SOUND DESIGN, SOUND DESIGN, SOUND DESIGN. Not since the soundmines in Episode II have I seen something used so effectively while bringing the taste of real space home. Bravo and agreed with on the 5 Stars Kofi.

  11. Soo I just got back from seeing it again tonight and my friend said it best, “this visual aspects of this film exceeded those presented that of Pacific Rim. Everything else is really based on taste but it’s easily the film of the year thus far”.

  12. Saw it…must say, it wasn’t my cup of tea (or can of soda, whatever). I really enjoy a great story, more so than stunning visuals/arthouse films. I did love the sound though, as music has a way of touching people at a very deep and emotional level.

    Still, I see movies for the story, and I thought this one was just okay. 3/5

  13. Good movie (4 stars from me), but too many convenient mechanics to drive plot, and some bad science.

    Convenient mechanics: Hubble right next to ISS. ISS right next to Russian station. Russian station right next to Chinese station. Everything apparently in the same orbit.

    Bad science: Newton’s second law.

  14. It is a boring movie to watch. Nothing more needs to be said.

  15. I’m very interested now

  16. You people who belittle this movie are crazy. I saw it in I max 3d and left the theatre a wreck. I felt as though I was in space. Yes it was about the will to survive and how strong a human spirit can be against all odds. But it took place in a location unlike ever done before. And no matter how great your tv is do not wait for redbox to see it. See it in theater in 3 d at very least.

    • The movie 172 Hours was about a will to survive. This movie pales in comparison. Is so predictable.

      • I was thinking that when I watched actually. Thinking about how much better 127 Hours is.

  17. Weird, Kofi…reading the review, I thought you’d given it something like 4.5/5. I’m gonna go see it anyway, just…sometimes I get confused reading you guy’s reviews and then looking at the scores.

  18. Haha I have a boy name

  19. After playing with your shiny new toy maybe reality can set in and you will realize that this is not a five-star movie. Visually it is a six-star movie that has upped the game from Avatar, about which Vic Holtreman wrote, “Avatar is the most visually amazing film I’ve ever seen. His boasts were valid: Nothing like this has ever been done or seen on the big screen. The incredible scope and detail is really mesmerizing.”

    But just like Avatar the story is paper thin. The site lauded over Avatar after its debut, but the story has not stood the test of time, which the site has also pointed out. Ferngully anyone?

    In three years you will see that you have fallen into the exact same trap, due to your new shiny toy. Visuals can only overshadow the story for a very short time after release, but once you begin to reminisce you will remember the beautiful and groundbreaking aspects of Gravity, but you will then begin to realize, as Kofi stated, “They dressed up every ‘We gotta get out of town’ B movie thriller.” Basically, in your own words, this movie is a Lexus body with a Toyota Corolla engine.

    Full credit for the visuals, but it cannot make up for the weak story. Vic Holtreman gave Avatar 4/5 and Gravity should be in line.If Avatar gets slammed for the weak story so should Gravity.

    • I would say the story isn’t as great as the visuals but it is also not as bad as Avatar. Avatar had issues even when it came out as people have said it was a Pocahontas movies with aliens which was the majority of the complains. People couldn’t get passed that. With Gravity, its straight forward, simple, and although not nothing new in the storyline, the delivery is given a lot more successful than Avatar. Also I don’t remember a buzz about Avatar being “Oscar worthy”. In fact, Avatar when it first came out, the reviews were much like Pacific Rim’s review in which the visuals are great but lacks in everything else. With Gravity, the majority of the reviews show as Bullock and Clooney providing an Oscar worthy performance. Avatar in reality should have been given the same score as Pacific Rim or vise-versa

      • Good points, but 5/5 should have a great story, not just be pretty. It is only “Oscar worthy” because this year has had a ton of duds. Good movie, but only memorable for the visuals.

      • “In fact, Avatar when it first came out, the reviews were much like Pacific Rim’s review”

        Except Avatar went on to make the most money of any movie ever, making it a bit more significant than Pacific Rim or Gravity.

  20. Boring isn’t the word for it; this is one of the worst movies I’ve ever seen – definitely nothing even close to 2001 – A Space Odyssey.
    It was just another action movie with no plot, special effects, and loud music.
    Stone said that she liked the silence of space.
    It would have been nice to have had some of it during the movie.
    In sum, “Gravity” lacks gravitas.

  21. Wow… haters gonna hate I guess. I really… really, enjoyed this film. Truly unlike anything you will likely see. Makes you think, makes you squirm, even almost makes you cry at a few very intimate moments. What’s not to like? Clooney? Get over it, he rocked this role. The dependable, capable, even arrogant foil to Bullock’s vulnerable, scared, rookie. This is a must watch. Man I just don’t understand all the hate the commenters are throwing at this.

    • It isn’t hate. It’s very valid criticism.

  22. It was okay. I enjoyed the Imax 3D. Bullock was sort of bland without much emotion but she wasnt overly bad – and Clooney was being himself as usual.
    It was worth watching just for the visuals one time but definitely not a movied I’d own on disc.

  23. 2.5 stars. I didn’t like it or dislike it.

  24. Have to say, beyond the visuals (which were absolutely amazing) wasn’t that impressed with the movie. Had about as much plot as any of the Transformer movies and the characters weren’t that well developed. We got a (very) brief background on Dr. Stone that I suppose was to help us connect to her, but felt forced and not much beyond Lt. Kowalski except that he likes to tell the same stories over and over again. All the suspenseful moments are telegraphed, so there’s no real surprises. Even the one semi-surprising moment is a bit unbelievable so it doesn’t bring the viewer in all that much. I’m mixed about recommending this to anyone; The visuals almost need to be seen in IMAX just to feel the scope of it all and can’t be recreated at home even on the best home theater system, but I don’t feel comfortable telling someone to spend that kind of money just to look at amazing pictures and not much else.

  25. I would rather of watched space in a planetarium I found the movie extremely underwhelming it should of been called Sandra bullock in space or Sandra and dead and deader. My partner thought it was amazing and it was one of those REALLY moments. At the end of the movie as we stood up i looked back and everyone had gone LOL that was saying something. Two hours in space and what i really enjoyed was my flat white and Whittaker s strawberry chocolate.

  26. Please have a read of my review on Gravity at http://teddyloxley.wordpress.com/2013/11/11/gravity/ Any comments or feedback would be hugely appreciated. Thanks

  27. Two actors completed the film. Great director and screenwriter

  28. I realise there’s probably not likely going to be anyone who’ll read this post, however it’ll be enough for me to just write it anyway.

    I saw Gravity finally, last night – Dec 23rd – and, apart from the obvious appraisals, which I can give it, there’s even some other such things about it I can say.

    The greatest achievement, in my opinion, of Gravity, is in its satisfactory representation of both, humanity, and the glory of outer space; for me, truly, it’s in this respect where Gravity succeeds the most.

    The camera work, the use of its timing, the use of its directing……to the absolute highest of uses, for this movie, this device had been put.

    Gravity…….indeed arguably, thus far, the best space movie ever made.

    (Forward the now Interstellar!)

  29. Heavy handed, overly sentimental, pretentious, preachy, predictable, badly acted, unrealistic, convenient mechanics, paper-thin, patronising?

    All of the above?

    BINGO.

    0/10 stars from me.

    Sandra Bullock is probably one of the worst actresses I’ve ever seen on-screen.

    • ^^^
      I agree with all of that except the last sentence.

      • Okay, maybe that last sentence went a bit overboard, but the way in which she over pronounces every emotion in Gravity is terrible. She has no subtlety and that’s abundantly clear in this film. I’ve never rated her that highly to be honest, but for me this wasn’t one of her finer performances.

        • Yeah, this wasn’t one of her best performances. I liked her in Blind Side though.

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