CATEGORIES Features, Movies, Reviews

Sandra Bullock, Warner Bros.


It's difficult to find any flaw in Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity," which, at this point, is easily the best film of the year if not one of the best technical films ever. While its best to avoid hyping up a movie to such grand extents -- and we do really hate all the early Oscars talk -- we just can't help ourselves (sorry).

The space thriller, co-written and directed by Cuaron ("Children of Men," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban") stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone and George Clooney as astronaut Matt Kowalski. While Stone is working on a repair on the crew's Explorer space shuttle, the team gets word that a field of debris is heading their way. When it connects, their shuttle gets destroyed, and Stone ends up disconnected from the ship. With nowhere to return to, she must find a way to get to the International Space Station before her oxygen runs out.

Before you shoot out to see how this epic tale ends, here are 10 things you should know about the space thriller.

1. Its Characters Are Kind of Cheesy
On paper, "Gravity" is a rather corny and cliched story about two lost souls: Dr. Ryan Stone has lost her faith over the death of a loved one, while Matt Kowalski is a country-music-loving Texan divorcee. We learn details about the characters' backstories in brief conversations, none of which are unique or profound. If you close your eyes during these moments, "Gravity" may sound like a typical Clooney or Bullock movie. However, this isn't a film for shut eyes.

2. It's More About the Thrill Ride
Discounting "The Prisoner of Azkaban," "Gravity" is Cuaron's most Hollywood-ized film, and one that delves less philosophically into the human condition. Instead, Cuaron spends more energy on technical prowess, layering and building suspense, and manipulating the audience's physical, mental, and emotional well-being. If you go into "Gravity" expecting a complex story or strong character development, you'll find yourself disappointed. "Gravity" resembles a cinematic space roller coaster more than a typical trip to the movies -- and that's why we love it.

3. It Will (Literally) Take Your Breath Away
There are moments in the film where you may feel like your oxygen is running low. You'll probably release your sweaty grip from the seat, swallow a giant gulp of air, and attempt to level your heartbeat. The relentless moments of panic makes the experience of watching "Gravity" an all-consuming one. If any film will give you the most fun 91-minute anxiety attack of your life it's this one (trust us, it's worth it).

4. Bullock Is Maybe Her Best Ever
Bullock brings a genuine mix of courage and fear to the role. You can tell Stone's scared out of her mind, but she never lets you doubt that she'll figure out a way to survive. Her character is the ideal Hollywood hero we never stop cheering for, but also one who is deeply human. She's no superhero in this survival tale, much less a professional astronaut -- she's just a woman trying to make it home alive. While there's not much in Bullock's performance that we haven't already seen before, it's nonetheless emotionally charged and honest. Her moments of panic and fear are so real you forget you're watching a character.

5. See It In 3D
No one actually wants to put on a pair of used plastic glasses to enjoy a movie; it's annoying, it's expensive, and it usually offers nothing new. But all you anti-3D moviegoers out there: I am one of you, but I implore you to set aside your three-dimensional distaste for an hour and a half, put on a pair of clunky frames, and go to space. To see the dazzling depth of Earth against the blanketed atmosphere, the hyper-realistic debris speeding at you, and the intricacies of a tiny metal bolt floating towards you in zero gravity, is breathtaking. For the first time since "Avatar," 3D has finally found a good way to enhance a film.

6. It's (Probably) the Most Advanced Space Movie Ever
You may think James Cameron's comments about "Gravity" being "the best space film ever" seem exaggerated. Sure, Kubrick's "2001" has long been the king of space epics alongside the original "Star Wars" films. But Cameron's right: space has never before looked as strikingly real and intricately detailed as it does in this film.

7. It May Not Be Practical, But That's OK
While the film may be a bit unrealistic -- one major plot hole has already been spotted by a real astronaut -- it doesn't really matter, right? No space movie can be wholly realistic, especially one that has as many crazy moments as this one. At the end of the day, "Gravity" is a movie -- and it's probably the closest most of us are ever going to get to space for under $15.

8. The Sound Makes the Film
If the visuals rank first in this film then the sound -- or lack thereof -- comes second. Sound may not be something you always think about in a movie, but "Gravity" will definitely draw your attention to it. Cuaron takes advantage of the fact that there's virtually no sound (at least that the human ear can hear) in space. There are various periods in the film with literally no noise except for the characters' breathing and voices, reminding you of the complete and terrifying aloneness of space.

9. Cuaron's Camerawork Is Riveting
Known for his considerably long takes, we experience both the infinite vastness and the suffocating claustrophobia of space through Cuaron's camerawork, which spins out of control with Stone's body then shoves us into the helmet with her. Like the astronauts, we lose complete control as the constantly moving camera tosses us around helplessly in zero gravity.

10. It Proves That the Death of Cinema Is Nowhere Near
You've heard the debate over the past few years that filmmaking is in decline and that 3D is destroying the medium. If any film proves otherwise it's "Gravity." With some of the most mesmerizing and advanced photography and 3D ever used in a film, it's hard to deny that this space movie won't mark a shift in film history.


Gravity - Trailer No. 1