GRAVITY: A Movie Review

The other screenings were Kung Fu Divas and Bekikang, so it was really a no-brainer. If it were Jackie Chan and Jet Li, I might have reconsidered. As for Bekikang, I don’t even have the slightest idea.

Besides, everybody was talking, no, raving about Gravity, a space Sci-fi thriller by Alfonso Cuarón ( Harry Potter and The Prisoner of Azkaban). The reviews were not merely good, they were outstanding. One I read even claimed that Gravity redefined the space/Sci-fi genre single-handedly which hasn’t happened in a very long time. The last time it did happen was about four decades ago with Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the greatest space movie ever made … well, that was until now.

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All these teasing were driving me nuts. The last time I remembered being overly hyped for a movie was with James Cameron’s Avatar in 2009. Yes, I’m a sucker for Science, Fiction and everything in between. Beakman’s World and Johnny Quest included.

Being an astronaut sounds one hell of an occupation but it too has its perils. And for 90 minutes that exact same point is delivered by Gravity in a story that is riveting, tragic but ultimately triumphant.

The movie opens with mission specialist, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney)  – pretty much the entire cast – doing some repairs with the Hubble Space Telescope, serenely afloat with Earth as their backdrop. All was well until a distress signal was received from Houston ordering them to abort their mission. A few seconds more and everything just shatters with shocking speed that it catches you off-guard. The screen turns into a hot mess of high-speed satellite debris crashing into Clooney’s space shuttle. It becomes too late for the dangerously exposed astronauts to go back to the shuttle as the wild shower of steel crushes everything in its path.

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What sets Gravity apart from previous space movie efforts is Cuarón’s genius and his impeccable attention to detail. In this scene of total destruction, Cuarón and his team cleverly filter out most of the noise. By allowing only a few vibrations and minor hints of explosion, majority of the acoustics is left to the imagination.

Science fact no. 1: Sound cannot travel in a vacuum such as space.

Immediately, the frontier between the movie and the audience is broken; an intimate relationship that is a recurring theme throughout the film. The advanced sound effects (or in some cases, the lack of it) alone for this movie is a cinematic feat all on its own and will surely be celebrated by critics and moviegoers alike for the years to come.

Meanwhile, the sudden impact throws Bullock deeper into space and I remember thinking, what now?

That was barely ten minutes and now we’re only left with a wandering astronaut stranded in outer space. That was until Clooney manages to rescue her from becoming a human gyroscope for eternity.

Science fact no. 2: Without air, no external force such as friction is available in space to stop a spinning/moving object in motion.

The damage has rendered their shuttle useless and forces them to search for nearby satellites to hopefully go back to earth. At least, that was the plan. From here on, everything was a battle for survival against their imminent death and I’ll just have to leave out the juicy parts for you to see yourself.

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My favorite space movie of all time will have to be Contact (1997), starring Jodie Foster. This movie had me hooked on the possibilities of extraterrestrials and alien conspiracies. I never looked at the sky the same way again. But unlike it, Gravity is not a movie of thought-provoking ideas. Instead it is a physical journey filled with panic, dread and the powerful desire to stay alive.

Gravity is truly a celebration of the senses. Frame after frame, Cuarón executes his mastery of the craft. One of the standouts was a scene were Bullock manages to get inside one of the abandoned satellites. She surrenders into exhaustion and crouches into an almost fetal position. Some tubes were even intentionally placed to resemble an umbilical cord. I’d like to call this “the womb” scene. It was a profound moment because I think it illustrates the paradox that despite years of training, in a place as hostile as space, man is just as helpless as an unborn infant.

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After Bullock finally makes it to earth alive, she cups a handful of soil as if she had just discovered diamonds and rubies. And trust me, once she tries to walk with those two legs like a baby just learning to walk for the first time, it’s hard not to be emotional. Outer space is the complete antithesis of the environment we grow up with. It’s unforgiving and devoid of everything that is essential to sustain life. However in the end, man will always triumph, and so does this movie.

Ironically, Gravity’s strength is not in its 80 million-dollar production budget but in its moving sense of humanity. In some ways, it’s very reminiscent of Castaway and not many actors can pull of a one-man show.

This not your usual space-mission-gone-awry movie. This will be a pivotal film that people will look back as the movie that has reimagined a genre overpopulated with lasers, warships and over-the-top gooey space monsters, placing Cuarón up there with the likes of Spielberg and Kubrick. For once, this is a movie that deserves every hype it is getting. But don’t just take my word for it, go watch it.

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