Santa Cruz Good Times

Saturday
Nov 22nd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

High Anxiety

Gravity-filmGripping, intense, emotional ‘Gravity’ will put you in orbit

It’s the perfect set-up. A couple of astronauts on a routine mission outside their spacecraft for repairs suddenly find themselves adrift in space, tethered to each other, and no longer in contact with mission control. Where can they go? What can they possibly do?

The variety of answers may surprise you in Gravity, a smart, lean, elegantly composed and utterly gripping edge-of-your-seat thriller from filmmaker Alfonso Cuarón. Neither sci-fi nor space opera—and far more than simply a star vehicle for appealing headliners Sandra Bullock and George Clooney—Gravity is more like a space procedural in which ordinary people pit their own human ingenuity against ever more incredible and daunting odds. Maybe no one can hear you scream in space, but you should be able to hear audiences gasping over this savvy and surprising thriller all over planet Earth.

Scripted by the director and his son, Jonas Cuarón, the story begins in space. Medical engineer Ryan Stone (Bullock), on her first space mission, is outside the craft in her bulky suit trying to repair a communications link-up to send data back to Houston. Meanwhile, her colleague, veteran mission commander Matt Kowalski (Clooney, looking remarkably like Buzz Lightyear), is on a long tether, cheerfully marching rings around her, trying to beat a Russian cosmonaut’s record for the longest space walk. “You’re the genius up here,” Matt reminds her, “I only drive the bus.”

But things change in a heartbeat when debris from some of the myriad international space stations sent into space and abandoned comes hurtling toward them. The platform she’s on is severed from the ship and Ryan has to unhook herself, free-falling into space. Using his jet packs, Matt is able to track her down, tethering them to each other. But the ship and the rest of her crew are destroyed.

With oxygen in their suits running low, their only hope is to make their way to another station, searching for a shuttle pod to carry them back to Earth. (Who knew there was so much junk in space?) But that’s only the beginning of a taut plot that involves twisted or tangled lines, way more amok debris, derelict stations, shuttle pods that are inoperable, out of fuel, or whose instructions are in Chinese, raging fire, and hallucinations. Cuarón doesn’t waste a single frame, and every one of the film’s 90 minutes counts.

As in that other classic space odyssey, Alien, the narrative keeps viewers guessing by deftly playing around with our expectations, not only what we assume is possible within these limited circumstances, but the kind of plotting we expect from the genre, as well as what we think we know about the “rules” that govern life in space. One key scene begins when a hatch is suddenly wrenched open to oxygen-free space, and yet the astronaut involved is not immediately asphyxiated. But trust the Force; it’s not a mistake and Cuarón knows exactly what he’s doing.

And as if the adrenalin-rush storyline were not enough, the movie is astonishingly beautiful to look at. The outer space vistas with the gigantic sphere of the Earth always hovering in the frame are splendid. Bodies floating through spacecraft interiors are balletic in physical movement, or captured in expressively poetic stillness. It looks as if the entire film were shot at zero-gravity; nothing looks fake or CGI.

But Cuarón’s emphasis is always on the human element. In one astounding shot, when Ryan is free-falling, the camera zeroes in on the reflection of the Earth washing across the outside of her helmet, this way and that, as she tumbles, her terror-stricken face within. Then, seamlessly, the camera eye moves inside her helmet, gazing out past the digital readout to consider the vast nothing of space from Ryan’s viewpoint, and we share her sense of panic and sudden, crushing aloneness.

The actors are terrific. OK, who doesn’t love Clooney? But Bullock is equally impressive, in a physically demanding role (although I’m not sure if the skin-tight boy shorts she wears under her suit are regulation NASA underwear). Still, Bullock’s two virtuoso soliloquies give the movie its beating heart. Awesome on so many levels, Gravity will put you in orbit.

GRAVITY ★ ★ ★ ★ (out of four)

With Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Written by Alfonso Cuarón and Jonas Cuarón. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. A Warner Bros. release. Rated PG-13. 90 minutes.

Comments (1)Add Comment
Four stars
written by Tony Russomanno, October 07, 2013
Let it be entered into the Permanent Record, as Lisa mentioned elsewhere, this is her first four-star movie in two years. AND she saw it in 2D. Friends, I am here to testify: I saw this thing at an IMAX theater in 3D and people seated next to me were honestly concerned for my well-being. I have never seen a movie with more believable tension, and the long, long shots in apparent zero-g were as technically astonishing as they were prone to causing mild motion sickness (but only in the first few minutes of the film, just as Sandra Bullock's character was experiencing.)

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Pop Life

The pop-up dining trend is freeing culinary imaginations and creating a guerilla version of event dining around Santa Cruz

 

Over Hills and Plains, Riding a White Horse, Bow and Arrows in Hand

Saturday, early morning, the sun enters and radiates the light of Sagittarius. Three hours later, the Sagittarius new moon (0.07 degrees) occurs. “Let food be sought,” is the personality-building keynote. “Food” means experiences; all kinds, levels and types. It also means real food. Sag’s secret is their love of food. Many, if not musicians, are chefs. Some are both. The energies shift from Scorpio’s deep and transformative waters to the “hills and plains of Sagittarius.” Sag is the rider on a white horse, eyes focused on the mountain peaks of Capricorn (Initiation) ahead. Like Scorpio, Sagittarius is also the “disciple.” Adventure, luck, optimism, joy and the beginnings of gratitude are the hallmarks of Sagittarius. Sag is also one of the signs of silence. The battle lines were drawn in Libra and we were asked to choose where we stood. The Nine Tests were given in Scorpio and we emerged “warriors triumphant.” Now in Sag, we are to be the One-Pointed Disciple, riding over the plains on a white horse, bow and arrows in hand, eyes focused on the Path of Return ahead. Sagittarians are one-pointed (symbol of the arrow). Sag asks, “What is my life’s purpose?” This is their quest, from valleys, plains, meadows and hills, eyes aimed always at the mountaintop. Sag emerges from Scorpio’s deep waters, conflict and tests into the open air. Sag’s quest is humanity’s quest. Sag’s quest, however, is always accompanied by music and good food.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of November 21

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Pie Fidelity

A little Thanksgiving help, plus sip and shop locally at the Art, Wine and Gift Bazaar

 

What should be on everyone’s bucket list?

Hang gliding, because you're free as a bird. Jenni, Santa Cruz, Student/Administrative Assistant

 

Soquel Vineyards

Thanksgiving is just around the corner, so it’s time to be thinking about the wine you’re going to serve with that special dinner, be it turkey, ham, a roast, or something vegetarian or vegan.

 

The Kitchen

Chef Santos Majano talks beer-friendly food at Discretion Brewery