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The Warsaw Voice » World of Movies » October 31, 2013
Film review
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October 31, 2013   
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As a kid, Alfonso Cuarón apparently wanted to be an astronaut. The Mexican director and screenwriter, known for Children of Men, Y tu mamá también, Great Expectations and Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, never fulfilled his childhood dream but now, in his fifties, he has made up for it with Gravity, a thriller set in space. Viewers and critics have been comparing the film to James Cameron’s Avatar, pointing out that both are milestones when it comes to 3D technology. The difference is that while you can see a traditional, two-dimensional version of Avatar and still enjoy it as an decently made and entertaining sci-fi flick, Gravity is essentially eye candy that would lose much of its allure if stripped of its 3D credentials.

Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock—Speed, While You Were Sleeping, Crash, The Heat) is part of an astronaut team tasked with repairing the Hubble Telescope. So far she has only experienced space in a simulator. The mission is the final assignment for shuttle commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney—The Perfect Storm, Syriana, Solaris, Ocean’s 11 series), a space veteran with a penchant for sarcasm.

What was planned as a routine mission turns into a nightmare. The Russians decide to take out a defunct satellite with a missile strike. Shooting by at an insane speed, the resulting space debris destroys everything in its path. Stone and Kowalski are the only survivors from their shuttle. Tethered to each other, they start drifting through space in a desperate attempt to reach the Chinese or Russian space station and find a capsule to take them back to Earth.

While experts from NASA and other space agencies have pointed to some inconsistencies in the movie, Gravity does not aim to be a documentary. The movie is about two people trying to stay alive in extreme conditions and it does the job perfectly well. “I hate space,” Stone says at one point, and viewers can see why. Space according to Cuarón, who also wrote the script, is nothing like what you see in Star Wars. It is empty, deadly quiet and cold.

If you wanted to pick a hole in Gravity you could point to Bullock and her performance. The actress has made a name for herself starring in romantic comedies and light action movies, but here she has to keep the viewer engaged at all times and make her character feel genuine. She fails at portraying a woman who is on the brink. Instead, she cannot decide between cheap sentimentalism (her personal story of losing a daughter screams Hollywood kitsch) and dark humor. The latter suits Clooney better and does not really work coming from a woman who has ventured into space for the first time in her life.

According to some reports, Bullock auditioned for the role competing against other A-list actresses such as Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman and Marion Cotillard. It is interesting to imagine how they would have handled the role. But at least the people behind Gravity knew better than to bore the audience. Without the opening and end credits, the movie clocks in at just over 80 minutes.
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