James Cameron called this the ‘greatest space movie ever’ or something like that. I am differing not because it isn’t great but I don’t think it’s a space movie. It’s a survival movie, and so therefore when that became evident I started comparing it to other survival movies, particularly one of the best of them all in my opinion, Castaway.
And what makes me use Castaway is because it had all the elements of a great survival movie. Tom Hank’s character is in a fantastically desperate situation that would make most of us want to give up. Not only are the challenges tremendous, he needs to take them on alone. So alone is he it is almost like he is in a vacuum for most of the movie.
Bullock’s character Ryan is clearly in such a bind. With emotional baggage from an earlier incident to boot, she has to fight a frightening array of random disasters until it came to a point where she had to make a choice – find it in her to bring on the super human effort needed to fight harder and harder odds, or just give up.
Survival movies in order to work build up on those situations to heighten the impact and bring us, warm and comfortable in our theater seats, to experience the sheer terror and depths of despair they go through. And this is where I find Gravity wanting. Because while movies like Castaway or even Steve McQueen’s Papillon portray despair and sadness quietly, Gravity uses music to build emotion, and while the music in itself is alright, I just found myself wishing it wasn’t there, the better to feel the character’s pain with.
The choice of actor I felt was also a letdown. I agree Bullock acted up a storm, especially difficult since she did not have anyone to act with, but Bullock played Ryan as chatty, almost explaining to the audience what she is thinking and feeling so as to make sure people ‘get it’. I’d rather of course she just go about her way considering she is in a dramatically hopeless situation already, she doesn’t have to work for empathy. But instead she reminded me somewhat of her Speed character, jive talking her way to build confidence. That didn’t work for me.
What does work for this movie is the beyond spectacular special effects, particularly in how it portrayed gravity, or the lack thereof. Trust me, I will never credit movies for its special effects. Otherwise I’d think that Transformers, which is mostly effects, should win an Oscar. Gravity is the first movie I could really say that effects were put to great, well, effect. Great effects is par for the course these days sure, but here, particularly in explaining the feeling of floating helplessly in space, this movie will blow you away.
And in the end that’s a good enough reason to watch and enjoy this movie. Bullock is who she is and she played it the way she thought it would work. Clooney is great albeit I found myself wishing his character was played by a European instead, maybe Ralph Feinnes for some odd reason, again possibly because I wanted a more understated performance.
The movie is a spectacular visual bonanza and will leave you breathless and at the edge of your seat. 8/10.