On Tuesday, 8 October 2013, I went to the Embassy Cinema in Waltham, Mass., to screen Gravity. The space-based drama is the best movie I’ve seen in theaters so far this year.
Gravity‘s plot is fairly straightforward — after a major accident, astronaut Ryan Stone is stranded in orbit and must find a safe way back to Earth’s surface. As a well-executed character study and survival thriller, Gravity stands out after a summer of sequels, reboots, apocalypses, and gratuitous urban destruction.
Co-writer and director Alfonso Cuaron (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) keeps the pacing taut at a lean 90-minute runtime. He successfully balances the wonders of seeing Earth from space (worth a 3-D or IMAX ticket) with a focus on Stone’s emotions. The visual effects around the orbital disaster are excellent, with a convincing mix of live action and computer-generated imagery.
Star Sandra Bullock, who has been better known for physical comedy than for her range, conveys Stone’s reactions to her predicament, from joy to horror to sadness and determination. George Clooney is his usual affable self as Matt Kowalski, an astronaut who initially guides Stone. These actors have enough charisma to fill the screen as needed.
Despite some scientific liberties taken for the sake of storytelling, such as with orbital mechanics and physiological degradation from time spent in microgravity, Gravity feels realistic, if not as much as The Right Stuff or Apollo 13. I’d put this movie with 2001: A Space Odyssey and Moon as good speculative fiction. As an SF thriller, it’s also not far from Alien or Outland.
Overall, I’d give Gravity, which is rated PG-13 for violence and language, a 9 out of 10, four and a half out of five stars, or an A-. I recommend it for any fans of serious science fiction and the aforementioned actors.
Of the previews I saw, the remake of The Secret Life of Walter Mitty with Ben Stiller looked decent, and I’m of course looking forward to The Hobbit [2 of 3]: the Desolation of Smaug. I was also pleased to see a strong Godzilla trailer recently, but I’m less certain about literary adaptation Ender’s Game and superhero sequel Thor 2: the Dark World.