Finding GRAVITY (A Film Commentary)

Official Movie Poster


As the end credits rolled, my first thoughts of Alfonso Cuarón’s new film, Gravity, were, “!!!!”

I have not watched a movie in the theater this intense since Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down. This may have something to do with my worst fears – drowning or being exposed to the vacuum of space – but I had to prepare myself for this particular screening based solely on the premise of the film: a medical engineer and an astronaut work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space. Vacuum of space!

Are you ready for this?

Are you ready for this?

Preparing didn’t help…not immediately anyway. In my anticipation of what was to come in the first fifteen minutes, I found myself shaking from the tension in my body before anything even happened, and the amount of palm sweat I generated probably could have filled a small bucket. Instead it soaked through my partner’s jeans as I clenched his left knee during the course of the movie.  I reminded myself to breathe, calming the visible tension, and after the first action hit, I buckled in and didn’t turn back.

GRAVITY IS A MUST SEE IN THE THEATER – unless viewers suffer from bouts of anxiety, high blood pressure, heart conditions, low tolerance of any stress-related situation, or stand below the minimum required height to ride this ride, then maybe the best viewing arrangement would be in the comfort of their living rooms.  However this film was written and made for 3D on the silver screen (i.e. no stereo conversion and less cuts within a scene to minimize the head jarring), but the director commented on the beauty of the film in IMAX if one cannot get past the horrors of 3D viewing.  His idea that the Dolby surround sound system would encompass the viewer in the vacuum of space reinforces theater-going, and Cuarón utilized a number of point of view shots from Sandra Bullock’s perspective throughout the feature to further engage the viewer in the experience of her character, Dr. Ryan Stone.

Houston, this is serious business!

Houston, this is serious business!

Director Alfonso Cuarón and Producer David Heyman joined us for a Q&A session after the 90 minutes had transpired
and explained why it took 4 1/2 years to make this film. They had to develop new technology with the help of Cinematographer Emmanuel “Chivo” Lubezki and Executive Producer Chris DeFaria that involved lightboxes, robotic arms (of the car manufacturing kind), and choreographed movements from the actors in every scene they shot. Together w/ Visual Effects house Framestore, they previsualized and created what we see on the screen. Out of curiosity after watching Clooney and Bullock endure the lightbox contraptions with their carefully choreographed sequences, Cuarón said he couldn’t even lift the arms when stepping into one himself.    His humble and earnest dedication to the art of filmmaking once again created an unforgettable experience for the screen.

In that respect I prefer not to discuss plot until viewed because this is one of those films that benefits from the viewer not knowing what’s next. I prefer to push this film for the experience and the discovery of each terrifying moment in the dark beyond.  It will no doubt be one of the top ten on many 2013 end of year lists, including mine.  I have ventured so far already to call this for Best Visual Effects at next year’s Academy Awards ceremony with possible nods for director, picture, actress, cinematographer, sound mixing, sound editing, original screenplay (written by Cuarón with his son Jonás), and film editing categories.  Yeah, it’s that memorable.  Gravity hits theaters this Friday.

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