Dear Gravity (Rick’s Take),
Where do I start with you? I sit mute with an overwhelming desire to know the right words. How do I expound on your impact over me?
Its not easy, but let me qualify upfront that I was blessed for our get together by seeing you on IMAX in 3D. You are also probably the best use of the visual technology seen to date. It is abundantly clear when you open with a glorious view of low earth orbit that I am in store for something visually stunning. It turns out, I have no real clue yet. As your story begins with space repairs and modifications to an orbiting telescope, we meet the two members of our rocket backed, white knuckle thrill ride.
Sandra Bullock as Ryan Stone is our first-time in space med engineer performing a one-off project overseen by veteran Matt Kowalski – played beautifully with charismatic swagger by George Clooney. When Houston command informs the team that inadvertent destruction of a Russian satellite has created a low orbit debris storm that will reach them at bullet velocity in minutes is when all hell breaks loose.
The first of what I call your destruction environments blasts across the screen in a weightless miasma that leaves my mouth agape at the hard science brilliance of the scene and instantly creates the ultimate terror of flung out of control, out into space, in a panting panic that has never been put to film before. This beyond all comprehension is just the beginning. What I immediately know in my gut is that I am now watching something singularly special that is an event of creative brilliance!
As the veteran astronaut Matt snags Ryan out of space in the most literal way possible, the fight for survival begins. As they make their way to the International Space Station, another dawning of glorious comprehension comes: this is becoming a hard science backed story that deals in realities that most modern films eschew with complete disdain. Maestro Alfonso Cuarón has shown a complete dedication to playing inside the lines of real science as much as humanly possible. Folks like A.C. Clarke, Beneford, Bear, Niven and Sagan have to be smiling wherever they are at the intelligence at sticking to the knitting of real physical weightless space.
When our duo reaches the International Space Station (ISS,) is when the cruel fates of space deal the first blow to survival and it is here that Bullock starts to shine in the film in ways I totally didn’t expect – her understated efforts and nuance wholly and purely mesmerize me. When she enters the station and struggles to breathe the life giving oxygen in the air lock (all done weightlessly) I am beyond astonished at the kinetic fight for life that unfolds in front of me as she peels her suit and when her inertia dies down into an embryonic near fetal position, I am looking at a scene of pure artistry that humbles me and it is then I know that have seen the finest space based weightless scene ever put to film or in front of my eyes.
Where do we go from there Gravity? Unbelievably, ever onward and ever higher! This now is no longer just a movie or film or entertaining pastime. This is a creative event that I will treasure always and that puts this masterpiece into the stratosphere of my pantheon for all time.
Yet, your tale continues and Ryan doesn’t get to enjoy her repose long as the debris field continues to circle the earth for more passes and more destruction. It is here I have a gut check about you. You are singular in not only your visuals but in your story telling. It is not guide me by the hand spoon feeding me it is a mute – keep moving to live – visual plot progression that for once calls on my intelligence and acuity to pay attention, observe, learn and thus know the depth of the story you are showing me. It is so refreshing and engaging that I suck it up like the life giving air that Ryan fights for. It brings to mind another example of true visual story telling that is the first 20 minutes of Wall-E. I sigh with this realization as if I can hardly believe it.
As the fever pitch continues and Sandra Bullock turns in the finest portrayal of the year and of her career, Cuarón’s headlong tale takes me over and over again to the edge of my seat as the fight for survival continues. At each turn, Alfonso’s vision of this epic delivers perfection in form, composition and execution. I think for the first time in my science loving space faring imagination, I finally have an idea of what the vacuum may be like. This is a revelation I am at a loss to express. Very much like the loss of words to describe my gratitude to this film for restoring my wide eyed wonder and love for a medium I had become slightly bitter and jaded about. You are a masterpiece, Gravity, and far and away the greatest real space film ever made. Long live the king.
Cuarón, you sir have vaulted into rarified air as a visionary and I fully expect you and your team to sweep all accolades from everyone this year as I already know I don’t need to see what the last quarter of the year has in store, I know I have seen the finest of this or any year. Bravo, masterfully done.
With infinite adoration and pure love,