In what is perhaps the best 3-D film ever made, “Gravity” dazzles even as it delivers gritty thrills.
George Clooney remains great and director Alfonso Cuarón gets Sandra Bullock’s best performance as an actress — which combined with those amazing effects makes for the best film of the year (so far).
While nowhere as layered or complicated as Cuarón’s earlier work “Children of Men,” he still shows how sophisticated his skills are as he takes the audience on a grueling tale of space survival. Like other films of the genre (“127 Hours,” “Open Water”), “Gravity” is essentially a very simple tale — man against nature (which of course includes bad luck). Yet it’s told so well that it never gets boring, and in fact just seems to get more exciting with each passing moment.
So while it’s not a movie you’ll be quoting, and it won’t change your life, it’s hard to imagine a better use of 3-D. This is an action/adventure film pure and simple, and it’s probably as close as most of us will ever get to space. Spectacular special effects — all wonderfully calculated by Cuarón both in technique and duration — make this perhaps the only “must see” in a movie theater film of the year.
Just as a point-of-view shot gets too long or dizzying, Cuarón shifts angles. Just when the action gets too intense, there’s a joke. He’s incredibly deft in that regard, never getting overwhelmed by the state-of-the-art special effects present in nearly every shot. Simply put, this is pure cinema telling a brutal tale of things gone wrong.
As good as Cuarón is with the effects, he also gets a fine performance from Bullock, in part because she feels comfortable enough with him to a) not “act,” and b) to let him film her face in 3-D IMAX for an hour and half. That’s brave for any actor. Hell, she even lets him film her rather large feet as she floats through space in one touchingly human scene. While she never quite reaches greatness, she’s certainly good enough not to get in the way of the story or effects, and good enough to sell the tale.
Not only will she win an Oscar for Best Actress, Ed Harris might win Best Supporting Actor — and you never even see his face. So yeah, the acting’s good.
WHAT DIDN’T WORK
Not much. Some people might feel a bit dizzy from all the crazy 3-D space moves, and as I said, it’s not going to win for best screenplay. If you hate Clooney or Bullock, you probably won’t love this flick as it’s 99 percent them. While not quite a great film — and will lose much of its power even on a 60-inch television screen — it is nonetheless a must-see.
By the way, definitely spring for the 3-D/IMAX showing — you won’t feel ripped off.
GIVING CREDIT WHERE IT’S DUE
“Gravity” was directed by Alfonso Cuarón, who scripted the film with Jonás Cuarón. It stars Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris.