HTS Moderator , Reviewer
HTS Overall Score:95
I’m honestly not sure where to begin. There are movies that are excellent dramas, there are films that are more style than substance, and there are movies where you just want to listen to the music, and finally there are movies that you let wash over you as waves in the ocean, letting the auditory, visual and vocals pour through and around you like child in the womb. I can say wholeheartedly that “Gravity” is the latter. A cinematic experience that is literally just that, an EXPERIENCE is what I consider Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece. He’s done some great work with “Y Tu Mama Tambien” and “Children of Men”, but here he has created not a movie, but a cinematic experience that is completely deserving of all the critical acclaim it has been receiving. With 10 nominations for academy awards it is not a film that grandstands or tries to be Oscar bait, instead just a total outpouring of the artist’s heart and soul on camera.
The film starts with an incredible 17 minute single take that takes your breath away at the sheer beauty of space. Medical engineer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are up at the Hubble telescope having Dr. Stone install a top notch imaging prototype that she has been developing. All is going well until they are informed that a cataclysmic chain of events are about to occur. A field of debris from a satellite is headed there way and all they can do is hunker down and try to survive. Tearing through the telescope and their shuttle, the debris leaves utter chaos in its wake leaving only Dr. Stone and Kowalski alive. The two now are left without a shuttle and with minimal time left in their oxygen supplies. Utilizing Kowalski’s propulsion gear the two of them try and shoot their way towards the Russian space station, where they hopefully can use one of the shuttles to get back to Earth. Fate is cruel though, one of the stations shuttles is already gone, and the other has its landing chute deployed, making it impossible to use. To make matters worse Kowalski is lost trying to get aboard the station, leaving Dr. Ryan alone to figure out a way to make it back to earth.
The story is actually two pronged. It’s a simple tale of survival in the terrors and loneliness of space and it’s a tale of rebirth. The survival story is actually the more simplistic of the two. Lost in space, Dr. Stone must use all of her minimal space training and will to continue on and survive. It’s a solid story and one that we’ve seen many times in the past. Human will and ingenuity against Mother Nature, and it’s done very well. The subtext of this film is the tale of rebirth. Dr. Stone lost her one and only daughter a few years ago and has never been able to let go of that pain. It haunts her, it devitalizes her emotionally and leaves her in a living death, so to speak, robbing her of actually living her life to its fullest. This accident brings her down to the lowest point a human can be and forces her to face her pain. Will she let it destroy her and allow her to give up? Or will it give her a shot of adrenaline in the heart and allow her to tear herself out of the cocoon that she has wrapped round her heart. Alfonso masterfully blends the two stories together with simple verbal cues, but more importantly through the use of the most incredible visual and musical storytelling that I have ever seen in my life, with subtle imagery of Zero G and camera work, just showing us the death of the old, and the rebirth and extension of life of the new. It’s almost akin to watching a butterfly break free from a cocoon watching the imagery portrayed on screen. All I can say is that it is truly breathtaking in person.
I have never experienced a film like this before and am totally flabbergasted after watching it. The blending of traditional camerawork, with the CGI and musical score is a work of art that truly needs to be experienced on a large screen with a good sound system to be fully appreciated. Watching it on my Plasma with 2 channel sound made me realize that, while it’s a great film that way, being totally immersed by the sound and the encompassment of a large projection screen is truly the best way to experience it, giving you that sense of being in the middle of the film, staring in awe at the vastness of space. Sandra Bullock is unusually restrained in the film, not giving way to her usual over active style of acting, instead playing a withdrawn character that is chipped away at throughout the film, carving out the dead weight and allowing herself to be set free. There are two extremely poignant scenes in the movie that had me marveling at the subtlety of her character. The first being Sandra in a Zero G fetal position, with the cables and wires around her as if she was in the womb, just preparing to meet the world for the first time, and the second is the final scene of the movie, where you can see the new here, bursting into a world full of life and wonder. As I said earlier, the film is two pronged really. A simple survivors tale, and a story of redemptions and new life, with the realization that we have to live life in the present and future, not in the past.
The film’s production itself is about as flawless as you can get. The score by Steven Price is so epically moving and perfect, fitting itself seamlessly in with the stunning cinematography to the point where you can’t extricate one from the other. The production and the casting was spot on perfect. I honestly have a hard time giving 5 star ratings for the film. There’s always something you can pick apart and keep itself from what is meant to be a perfect rating. As such I’ve only given out 4-5 perfect ratings during my time reviewing films, but I can say that we now have another one to add to the books. “Gravity” is a seamless blend of storytelling from all aspects of the production, intertwining themselves with each other to the point that the movie would be incredibly less impactful if you took one of them from creation.
Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14540[/img]As expected, Warner has given us a near flawless 2.40:1 AVC encode, and I do mean that, NEARLY. The film itself is just about as perfect as you can be, but for one VERY slight anomaly. There seems to be a little bit of video noise during some of the darker scenes, it’s not very noticeable, and it’s primarily just something a really nitpicky person can see, but it does drop it down just a hair, enough to make me not give it a 5/5 rating. This most likely comes from a slightly compressed video encode since the film is only 23 gigs on the 2D disc and 19 gigs on the 3D disc. Besides that slight anomaly the film is nothing short of breathtaking. The colors are riveting and beautiful, switching from the blackness of space, to the pale blue interior of the space station and again bursting with light and color as she lands back on earth at the end. The space shots are so hauntingly beautiful that you honestly wish that they wouldn’t end. Detail is fine and rich throughout with copious space shots with incredible detail and wonderful close-ups, allowing you to see every fiber and weave on the NASA issued space suits. Black levels are absolutely gorgeous, never crushing and so deep and inky that you have to marvel at the sheer beauty that black can provide.
“Gravity” is one of the newer “Hybrid” 3D films were the filmed parts were a 2D conversion process and the 3D effects etc were rendered in native 3D. I usually hate 3D films, they’re either usually a poor conversion or else they use it as a gimmick, with things popping out in your face for those “jump” moments. I have to eat a big steaming pile of crow right, because “Gravity” is simply breathtaking in 3D. I actually think it may be my preferred version of it as well. The 3D image is every bit as perfect as the 2D image and actually looks better in some places. The softish noise that I saw in the 2D release actually looks muted and the only thing that I can complain about was the occasional shimmer on shiny object. Other than that my jaw is permanently stuck on the floor. Them tumbling through space looks so much more enveloping and the destruction of the Russian station just comes alive in a way that the 2D version didn’t. One of the THE best 3D showings I’ve ever seen.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=14541[/img]If the video was just SLIGHTLY south of perfect, you can be rest assured that the audio track is spot on perfect. Honestly I’d have to say that if I had a choice, I’d give it a 6/5 rating, but since I can’t I guess we’ll have to settle for a lowly 5/5 rating. The original theatrical mix was in 7.1 Dolby Atmos, so people got a little nervous when it was announced for a 5.1 DTS-HD MA track. Rest assured though, Alfonso himself personally supervised the mix and it sounds impeccable. The audio track was so engrossing, so mesmerizing and so enveloping that I could just close my eyes and listen to the entire movie in perfect happiness. Steven Price’s score is like a river, softly flowing through its course, soaking through every inch of the landscape and saturating itself so deeply into the rest of the film that it’s hard to say where it stops and the visual storytelling begins. The vocals are spot on perfect, and ironically are not localized to ONLY the front center speaker. Depending on how the story is told at that specific time the vocals can come from the left of the soundstage as the shuttle shifts into our view and slowly centers itself on our screen. In the middle of the cockpit you can hear the echoing of Sandra Bullock’s voice ripple from the front soundstage and bleed into the surrounds as you would in such a tight and confined space. The surround usage was amazing, to say the least. From the moment you hear the first tones of the movie you can tell you’re in for a serious treat. The complete sense of immersion with having all six channels constantly flowing around you is probably THE BEST blending of an audio track that I’ve heard to date. As usual, I save the best for last, the LFE is absolutely earth shattering! I am pleased to announce that there most certainly is NOT a high pass filter set on the LFE channel. My subs can drop all the way to 16hz without skipping a beat and I was pushing them to their max down in that range. The LFE can switch from gut punching mid bass down to the ultra-low frequencies at the drop of a hat and each tone is unique and perfectly balanced. No boominess or one noting there. This beats just about any audio track that I’ve heard to date and makes me wish I could go and give each of my other scores a lower rating since this is a new benchmark for audio.
• Gravity: Mission Control
- It Began with a Story
- Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G
- Previsualizing "Gravity"
- The Hues of Space
- Physical Weightlessness
- Space Tech
- Sandra and George: A Pair in Space
- Final Animation
- Complete Silence
• Shot Breakdowns
- Behind the Visor
- Fire in the International Space Station
- Dr. Stone's Rebirth
- The Sound of Action in Space
• "Aningaaq": A Short Film by Jonás Cuarón
• Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space
As you can tell from my gushing, I've become a fan of the film. I honestly didn't know what to expect when I saw the trailers. It seemed like one of those films that was all style and no substance, but I’m here to say that I was proven wrong. Whether it gets all or none of the academy awards it’s nominated for, “Gravity” is a stunning piece of art and a revolution in film making. Nothing like it has come before and I’m certain that nothing like it will come for quite a while. Alfonso has created a truly unique and special work here that must truly be seen and heard to be believed. With the stunning video and audio, and the inclusion of a huge amount of special features, this is one that I can wholeheartedly recommend to be picked up immediately.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón
Written by: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonas Cuarón
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1, French, Spanish, Portuguese DD 5.1
Studio: Warner Brothers
Runtime: 91 minutes
Own “Gravity” on Blu-ray 3D Combo Pack, Blu-ray Combo Pack, and 2-disc DVD Special Edition 2/25/14
Buy Gravity 3D combo pack Blu-ray on Amazon
Buy Thor: The Dark World 2D Combo pack Blu-ray on Amazon
Recommendation: Buy It
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