Gravity Blu-ray Review
“Houston, Houston in the blind, this is mission specialist Ryan Stone…and I have a bad feeling about this mission.”
Engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is aboard Explorer with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). They are more than 370 miles above the Earth’s surface, where the temperature can drop as low as -148 degrees. It is Stone’s first trip to space and Matt’s last. While she repairs a board on the Hubble Space Telescope, Matt twirls about, admiring the view and reciting stories he’s told countless times.
Word comes from Houston that a Russian satellite has taken a hit from one of its own missile strikes and that debris are out there traveling at 20,000 miles per hour. Then the debris hits other satellites, causing a storm to shoot through space. Houston cuts through again: “Mission abort. Repeat, mission abort.” And suddenly, Explorer is hit and Houston’s contact is lost and the viewer remembers that, indeed, in space, no one can hear you scream.
Stone becomes detached. She can’t breathe. She floats and drifts. She’s burning oxygen. Matt is sometimes here and sometimes there. Explorer is worthless. Their other crewmate is dead. She needs to locate the International Space Station. Time and chance are against her.
This reviewer wasn’t alive when Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY was released, but can imagine that viewing it on opening night must have been an overwhelming experience. The same holds for GRAVITY, which, while vastly different in numerous aspects (from story to character to approach to themes), is like the daring grandson to the classic epic. Like 2001, it is unique not just to its genre, but to the entirety of cinema.
GRAVITY is directed by Alfonso Cuarón (2006’s CHILDREN OF MEN, 2001’s Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN), who co-wrote the film with his son, Jonás, who in turn wrote, directed, produced, and edited the GRAVITY short spinoff ANINGAAQ. Cuarón quickly became one of the most prominent Mexican directors of his time, but never before has he (or any other modern filmmaker) accomplished something so monumental.
GRAVITY is a technical marvel. 3-D is easy to pinpoint as a gimmick because so many directors and studios use it as one. But GRAVITY is one of the very few to illustrate just how 3-D technology should be used. While objects do occasionally float and fly at the viewer (what do you expect?), the extra D is flawlessly utilized to create what is should: dimension and space. Much credit belongs to director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki, whose achievements here will likely be studied by future cinematographers. (The work by the editors, composer, production designers, sound mixers/editors, and others also serve to immerse and mesmerize the viewer; they know no boundaries and so don’t permit you to see or hear any.)
While it’s very easy to get lost in all of the wonderful effects, spellbinding action scenes and nauseating (and, at times, Sisyphean) scenarios, it’s important not to forget Bullock. GRAVITY is essentially a one-woman show and Bullock doesn’t really have all that much dialogue. All of the background details of Stone’s life are included in the script, but it’s really her performance that conveys that the film is as, at its core, about coping, letting go and finding faith in dire situations.
GRAVITY is the kind of movie you almost want to keep in a vault. It is so thrilling and scary and emotional and challenging and brave that it would be hard to watch more than once every few years.
GRAVITY BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: 2.40:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. If for some reason you missed what is easily the greatest theater experience in decades, this Blu-ray is a suitable replacement. This high-definition transfer offers flawless details and textures in everything from the characters and costumes (note the smudges and dust on Stone’s helmet) to the shuttles and the Earth’s geographic features, and the stellar black levels add the sort of depth and ominous feeling that the film necessitates. This is one of the best-looking video presentations of a modern film available on the Blu-ray format.
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio; French 5.1 Dolby Digital; Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles in English, French and Spanish. Just as important to the film’s horror and suspense as the visuals is the sound, which this transfer captures faithfully. There is a tremendous level of depth and power in the transfer, which equally showcases both the sounds of panic and the utter silence of space.
GRAVITY: Mission Control (1:46:36) is divided into nine segments: “It Began with a Story,” “Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G,” “Previsualizing GRAVITY,” “The Hues of Space,” “Physical Weightlessness,” “Space Tech,” “Sandra and George: A Pair in Space,” Final Animation,” and “Complete Silence.” This comprehensive collection of featurettes covers every aspect fans would want to know about, from the screenplay, research and style to the cast, special effects and difficulties the filmmakers faced.
Shot Breakdowns (36:48): The crew dissects five scenes/segments: “Behind the Visor,” “Fire in the International Space Station,” “Dr. Stone’s Rebirth,” “The Sound of Action in Space,” and “Splashdown”
COLLISION POINT: THE RACE TO CLEAN UP SPACE (22:28): This documentary, narrated by Ed Harris, looks at the importance and danger of the debris left behind from various space missions.
ANINGAAQ (6:53): Directed by Jonás Cuarón, this spinoff of GRAVITY shows the point of view of the Inuit fisherman that Dr. Ryan Stone contacts.
Film Festivals lists the 14 festivals that GRAVITY screened at.