Tuesday, October 8, 2013
Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" is something to see - yes, you should see it - but, a few days later, I'm surprised how infrequently I've thought of it.
It works best as a thrill ride, and some of the early scenes in which Sandra Bullock's medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone, and George Clooney's astronaut, Matt Kowalski, risk floating away into cosmic infinity play very effectively on a basic fear that most or all of us contemplated as children thinking about space.
Clooney's on hand primarily as a defuser of tension. He doses a bit of wry comic relief as needed, and when the lady scientist - who always crashed her flight simulator, and never really gets her bearings in zero-G - messes up, he's there to get her back on track. (All these decades after his handyman role on "The Facts of Life," he's still fixing things for girls.)
The bulk of the movie - almost all of the last hour - is the Sandra Bullock show, and that's where it comes back to Earth (so to speak). This Pauline is given one too many perils - several showers of space debris, fires in the cabins of every module, crash landings - all of which she narrowly escapes in a form-fitting sports bra, and in one case by looking at an instrument panel and literally playing eeny-meeny. Dr. Stone's backstory, involving a daughter who died very young, feels scripted and perfunctory.
Only in the final, cleverly handled scene between Bullock and Clooney does "Gravity" achieve the elegiac grace of its opening sequence or the Kubrick-like grandeur to which Cuaron aspires. More silence would have helped; too often, you're just waiting for the next crisis, the next buzzers to buzz and red lights to go off. The truest sentiment in the movie comes when Bullock silences the voice warning of low pressure or some such and mutters, almost under her breath, "I hate space."