movie film review | chris tookey


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  Gravity Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
9.05 /10
Sandra Bullock , George Clooney , Ed Harris

Directed by: Alfonso Cuaron
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron

Released: 2013
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 91

Impressive space opera lacks gravity... and believability.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Gravity is a film that deserves to be seen on a big screen, preferably in 3D. Like a handful of films before it Ė notably The Life of Pi and Avatar Ė it uses new 3D technology to create a rare impression of depth, wonder and lyricism.

It also creates a very effective sense of danger. When space debris came hurtling out of the screen, I ducked. And the views are incredible. Itís the next best thing to going into space yourself Ė and a lot less risky.

On technical grounds alone, Gravity should win awards, and director Alfonso Cuaron deserves kudos for visual imagination and not allowing his many spectacular special effects to overwhelm a gripping storyline. He brings an exciting narrative in at 91 minutes, which is no small achievement in itself.

Almost the whole movie takes place in zero gravity, which gives it a slow-motion, trance-like atmosphere that rapidly turns into dread, followed by cold-sweat nightmare.

Itís easy to identify with the two main humansí plight, as they find themselves marooned in space and wonder how on earth, or rather far from earth, theyíre going to get out of this mess. George Clooney playing Matt Kowalsky, a wise-cracking veteran commander on his last space flight, and Sandra Bullock as a rookie medical engineer, Dr Stone, are easy to like.

The trouble is that the characterization is thin and not wholly believable. The screenwriters Alfonso Cuaron and his son Jonas give Dr Stone a personal tragedy to get over, but that feels like clunky exposition and a slightly too desperate attempt to bring some dimension to her personality, while the film-makersí real interest is to ogle her in her underwear - would Cuaron have done the same if the leading character had been played by Matt Damon?

The dialogue is, at best, half-baked and at worst dumb. Itís hard to believe that either of the two leads is really an astronaut. For example, when Stone is running out of oxygen, Kowalsky sensibly tells her she should save oxygen by not talking. But then, because this is a Hollywood movie, he keeps asking about her life, and she talks, talks and talks some more. Seemingly, it doesnít occur to either veteran or rookie that sheís running out of oxygen, the only thing thatís keeping her alive. These characters are meant to be professionals, but they have the attention span of goldfish.

I didnít buy for one moment the idea that Bullockís character would go into space so thoroughly unprepared for disaster, and I found her last-minute improvisations extremely implausible. One moment, sheís a helpless everywoman dependent on her male commander, the next sheís colossally resourceful and empowered. I like Bullock, but I never believed in Stone.

The film may have the beauty of 2001: A Space Odyssey, but it isnít in any way a film of ideas. The screenplay altogether lacks gravity: itís cartoonish and trite. And there isnít a character in Gravity thatís as believable as 2001ís villain, Hal 900.

The sad truth is that, for all its sci-fi trimmings, Gravity is just another disaster movie, adhering to a Hollywood template of rising crises. That may be why Gravity, for all its visual virtues, topped a poll of LA Times readers as ďmost overrated movie of the yearĒ.

Oddly enough, the aspect of Gravity thatís most original is nothing to do with the special effects. Itís the fact that the film has no villain. If there is a villain, itís outer space itself.

All in all, Gravity is great to watch on the big screen, but not so great to think about critically. I suspect that when watched on a small screen, it will lose an awful lot of its impact. The story and characters arenít strong enough to carry it. As one amateur critic has complained on the internet ďItís a Perils of Pauline movie!Ē

Thatís right. But at least itís a good Perils of Pauline movie.

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