Gravity doesn’t waste a single second: After a brief text reminds us of how utterly dangerous space is, disaster strikes a shuttle crew in the midst of a Hubble telescope upgrade. With the help of veteran spaceman Matt Kowalski (the ever-affable George Clooney), scientist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock, ditching her blatant sass in favor of genuine emotion) must find a way to survive her first mission and return home alive somehow. But with one unfortunate twist after another, her ordeal is relentless.

Technically, Gravity is a scripted voyage into science fiction, albeit reinforced with a staggering measure of accurate science fact. Today’s average viewer knows enough about space exploration to smell cinematic hooey, though, and the last bit of vital believability is imparted by the brilliant use of 3D. This movie is as close as most of us will come to floating weightless above the Earth, but soon enough, we feel like we’ve really been there. Dynamic, fluid camera moves put the action all around us, as even a lens flare seems to dangle outside the TV. We peer down the length of the claustrophobic International Space Station, while loose knickknacks waft through the air. As a result of this credible presence alongside Ryan, her plight becomes ours, and our hearts sink at each pitfall, as when a wave of deadly debris comes careening straight for us.

The vast size and scope of this adventure are thrilling, but my favorite moment is intimate. In chapter 2, the camera moves ever closer to a drifting Ryan until we are right up to her helmet… and the visor disappears and we are inside with her, then looking out, seeing what she sees, including all the little readouts and reflections and smudges, before we’re outside again in a seamless, subtle transition. long, unbroken shots, orchestrated masterfully by director Alfonso Cuarón, are captivating. Earth is photographed with a sense of awe and amazing detail, too: Squint and you might be able to spot your house. The 2.4:1 frame is utilized magnificently, the backgrounds thoughtfully composed with other characters or just the infinite star-dotted blackness behind everything. Video streaking is minimal.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack has a specialized character, marked by palpable bass thumps and clunks to suggest the odd vibrations we might feel in this often airless environment. When we’re inside a helmet for a POV shot, voices and electronic hiccups come at us as if from tiny internal speakers, while people and objects are sonically established before us. Note too the audible transition from an empty airlock to full pressure, and the appropriately nightmarish noises of a destructive onboard fire. Steven Price’s diverse musical score helps fill the void and maintain the suspense, at times a living, growling beast.

The substantial payload of bonus content can be found on the 2D Blu-ray Disc, including a nine-part making-of, almost two hours total. There are also five revelatory analyses of the sophisticated production techniques, a mini-documentary about the growing problem of space junk, and a short companion film that ties touchingly into a pivotal scene. A DVD and high-definition UltraViolet Digital Copy are also included, but if ever a movie begged for the benefit of the third dimension, this is it. Gravity is quite simply one of the most awe-inspiring cinematic achievements of our time.

Blu-Ray 3D
Studio: Warner Bros., 2013
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Length: 91 mins.
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

dommyluc's picture

Gee, nice to see that Cuaron won the Best Director Oscar that Stanley Kubrick should have gotten in 1968 for "2001: A Space Odyssey".