Gravity ★★★½

I'll leave the computer graphics issue over to Vadim who explained the issue quite perfectly, but I imagine those who disdain CG-effects on principle is kind of like having color blindness. There are also other issues that probably help my enjoyment: a) Not watching the trailers meant I had no idea what the film would look or operate like b) I sit very close (actually saw in 2D but 3rd row) and c) I'm not interested in questions of "real" cinema as some doctrinal manifesto. The only thing real in this movie anyways is all the squirming I was doing in my seat, which was a very good thing. This isn't Man of Steel's show you everything possible destructive chaos—this is POV into third person motivated by protagonist character (who has little control) into objective view point of awe swung back into the extreme chaos on the intimate scale. For lack of better critical terminology, it was really fun.

Comparisons to 2001 seem to be more spoken by the film's detractors, using it as a convenient false comparison (2001 makes you think; Gravity does not) given the only thing comparable is a space setting, while actively challenging the aesthetics by comparing it to a video game.* A more active and intelligent comparison would be other long take directors—if we are going to look at how these long takes work (instead of just compare Cuaron lazily to maybe Ophuls or the Copa shot in Goodfellas or something), Gravity's closest cousin would be Jansco's The Red and the White,** in which objects can appear out of nowhere and your entire landscape needs to be constantly reoriented—Cuaron's gambit is to bring a 360 element to it. Add to that the use of sound (not completely silent but certainly closer to it—I love getting just a lot of breathing and an accelerated heartbeat) and details like the moisture on the front of Bullock's helmet, and my eyes were all over the screen trying to stay as oriented as she did.

I don't care that much about Gravity's dumb as a doornail script, but I think it's kind of silly for Adam Nayman to declare that "the last thing a movie set in the cold, unforgiving vacuum of outer space should be is sentimental" (Is this conjecture based on a personal experience? Isn't the Overview Effect a specifically sentimental psychological effect?). This line by Nick Pinkerton is a deadly killer response anyways: "Here is an overt statement of an assumption that lies behind much criticism, and not only of Gravity. Failure, surrender, and death are sophisticated; triumph, survival, and life are not." Whether or not Gravity explores these themes at all in any sort of a meaningful way I think is kind of besides the point. Most of the dialogue didn't annoy me too much—a lot of Clooney's chit chat is the kind of stuff he's obviously doing for a reason, the same way a dentist chit chats to me while I panic breathe. The last third, with Bullock howling (oy), and the overbearing score during the final decent, did lose a lot of interest—the squirm factor was gone. But most of what came before that more than justified the journey, with not too much faux-pretension to get in the way of what Bullock (and I assume Cuaron self-consciously) tells us at the end of the day is simply "one hell of a ride." Let's just leave it at that then.

*Are we still using video games as a point of derision? Then again, I haven't played any video games in 3 or 4 years, and it was a Sega Dreamcast, I think.

**"But Jansco did it in real life without CG" someone just clamored. Is the critic's job to judge the work or the production? This is actually probably a big question to discussed at some point, but I'm looking at what's on screen.

Peter liked this review