While the newest film from Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón doesn’t hit theaters in the United States until October, Gravity kicked off the 70th Venice Film Festival in Italy. The long awaited follow up to Cuarón’s Children of Men has been in the works for seven years as Cuarón and his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki worked with Avatar director James Cameron to try to figure out how to re-create the weightlessness of outer space on a Hollywood sound stage. From everything we’ve seen from the film, it looks like Cuarón and Lubezki figured out the formula.
The early reviews from the Venice Film Festival are in and it looks like Alfonso Cuarón might have a hit on his hands. While many critics praise the film for its visual prowess, some others praise Sandra Bullock for her performance as Dr. Ryan Stone, which they consider to be the best in her long career. Considering that Alfonso Cuarón has been working on this film for so long and its mark as a visual masterpiece, it’s the type of film that begs to be watched on the biggest screen imaginable and in 3D.
Todd McCarthy from THR describes the film as a visual ballet comparing it to works of German director Max Ophuls. It seems that McCarthy was taken by the film’s artistry as he tried to figure out how Alfonso Cuarón pulled off making the space epic. McCarthy writes:
“It’s as if Max Ophuls were let loose in outer space, so elegant is the visual continuity, making for a film that will have buffs and casual fans alike gaping and wondering, “How did they do that?” and returning for multiple viewings just to imbibe the sheer virtuosity of it all.”
While Justin Chang from Variety was impressed with Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s performances in Gravity. Chang called the science fiction film an “experiment in blockbuster minimalism.” Chang contends:
“Suspending viewers alongside Bullock for a taut, transporting 91 minutes (with George Clooney in a sly supporting turn), the director’s long-overdue follow-up to “Children of Men” is at once a nervy experiment in blockbuster minimalism and a film of robust movie-movie thrills, restoring a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the bigscreen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide.”
Xan Brooks from The Guardian compared the film’s existential dilemma to Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris, but more emotionally driven than intellectually. Brooks writes:
“It comes blowing in from the ether like some weightless black nightmare, hanging planet Earth at crazy angles behind the action. Like Tarkovsky’s Solaris (later remade by Clooney and director Steven Soderbergh), the film thrums with an ongoing existential dread. And yet, tellingly, Cuaron’s film contains a top-note of compassion that strays at times towards outright sentimentality.”
Lastly, Robbie Collin of The Telegraph said the film was a very visceral experience to watch. Collin compared the journey of Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalsky in Gravity to the audience’s experience while watching the film. Collin observed:
“Stone and Kowalsky grasp wildly for something – anything – to hold onto. They spin through empty space, and so does the camera, in a series of moves so intricate and yet so natural that only after you leave the cinema do you realise the feats of visual choreography involved. Inside the cinema, you’re simply too caught up in the action to notice, and as Dr. Stone’s own oxygen supply agonisingly ebbs towards zero, you realise you, too, are rationing your breath into sips. The fight for survival then follows, and if the tension ever then dips below lung-bursting levels, I can’t say that I noticed.”
Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity was originally going to be released in 2012 with rumors that it was going to open last year’s Cannes Film Festival. The science fiction film was pushed for a 2013 release while Cuarón put the finishing touches on Gravity.
A few months ago in February, Gravity received mostly positive reviews from audiences during a test screening. It was called “next level” with comparisons to Gaspar Noé’s Enter the Void and Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. Needless to say, with high praise like this, Gravity should be one interesting movie-going experience. It is now considered Alfonso Cuarón’s masterpiece, so let’s hope it fully lives up to the hype.
Gravity stars Sandra Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer who is on her first space shuttle mission, and George Clooney as Matt Kowalsky, a veteran astronaut who is on his last one. Within the film’s first act, a terrible accident takes place, which leaves Dr. Stone and Kowalsky separated. Dr. Stone is left to drift through space with no hope for rescue and with very little oxygen left in her tanks.
Gravity will hit theaters everywhere on October 4, in 3D and IMAX.