Review: Gravity (Cuarón, 2013)

Still from the movie Gravity

By now you all probably have either seen the film or know its premise: astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) get lost in space–well, not all of space, just low earth orbit. Bullock’s performance was solid. More required of her than in her other action films (can you believe Speed came out 20 years ago?), and she carried it off. Clooney was his usual chatty, cavalier self, though I kept thinking of Buzz Lightyear in all his scenes.

I wish this film hadn’t been nominated for a Best Picture Oscar because then I could have enjoyed it for what it was: a visually beautiful and gripping action-suspense movie. Why did I not think it was more than an action-suspense? The primary focus of the film is to keep the audience on the edge of its seat. Is it realistic that someone would have to continually deal with crisis after emergency after death-defying escape without any pause and never more than one at a time? Not really, but it keeps us delightfully engaged. We get just enough emotional context about the character for us to care whether or not she survives and for us to see a deeper motivation behind her actions, but not much more than that. Moreover, the emotional context is handled so tritely that it can’t be considered anything more than a device, a convenient trick. So maybe I could have done without Dr. Ryan Stone’s personal history, but neither was I too bothered that it was there. I could have also done without the brief, shoddily-executed attempts at being life-affirming: those were a little more irksome.

My advice: forget the Best Picture nomination and just enjoy this movie for the fun, pretty ride that it is.

Notes: 1) Man is Sandra Bullock in shape. I always watch movies like this and think, I need to get out and exercise more. But I guess to look that fit I would need to run more than 40 minutes, 4 times a week. Maybe in another life… 2) I watched this movie at home on TV in 2D. That could have made a difference in how much I ended up liking it (compared to others who saw it in 3D), but neither do I think spectacular visuals a great movie make.