Anticipation is a dangerous pastime I try to participate in as little as possible nowadays. Why spend the time ranking our most anticipated films when they can come along and surprise us one at a time? That said, it’s hard not to be beyond excited for Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, particularly after those astonishing clips hit the internet a month ago. From here on out I’m doing all I can to avoid any news, reviews or footage from Cuaron’s film until I see it for myself, but even living in a walled-off box, you can’t ignore the ecstatic response out of the film’s Venice Film Festival premiere.
My personal avoidance of such reviews aside, here they are for you to dig into and build your own case of profound excitement for the film.
Justin Chang at Variety: “In one continuous shot, the film has not only introduced its central crisis — will Stone survive? — but also completely immersed us in the beauty and majesty of a dark, pitiless universe. While “Gravity” is hardly the first film to send characters into orbit, few have so powerfully and subjectively evoked the sensation of floating right there with them. As it glides nimbly around the action, the camera induces a deeply pleasurable feeling of weightlessness (the film might just as well have been titled “Dancing With the Stars”) that can suddenly turn from exhilarating to terrifying, leaving us gasping for oxygen alongside the characters.”
Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist: “The film comes as close as most of us are likely to get to actually being in space (undoubtedly aided by the 3D: this is one film that’s really worth paying the extra bucks for to see in the format, whether the lens is capturing a tiny spinning speck in the distance or debris flying in your face). But it shouldn’t be dismissed as a mere rollercoaster ride — even if your instinct, as at a theme park, is to finish the experience and line up again for another go. When all’s said and done, the action is in service of character, and more specifically, Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone.”
Matt Mueller at Thompson on Hollywood: “Self-contained and disembodied from the outset, “Gravity” exerts an instant narrative pull: a space shuttle, 375 miles above earth, floats into view with three astronauts performing various tasks against the backdrop of black space and the blue planet below. Mission commander is Matt Kowalsky (Clooney), a wisecracking veteran whose primary job seems to be bantering with mission control (“Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission”), marvelling at the view and spinning around the shuttle with his jetpack. Queasy first-timer Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock), meanwhile, is hard at work applying an undefined technology she’s invented onto the Hubble Telescope. Stone can barely keep her lunch down and, we later discover, is mired in a depressive state having lost a four-year-old daughter. We never see the face of a third astronaut, although we do see what’s left of it after this relative idyll is shattered when a missile sets off a domino effect of colliding satellites, creating a field of metallic debris travelling at 50,000 miles per hour and turning their orbit into a lethal shredding zone every 90 minutes.”
Guy Lodge at In Contention: “I do know, though, that “Gravity” ends in a wholly different register – tonally, visually, emotionally – to the one it begins in, as Cuarón embraces both the Hollywood trappings and, more riskily, the amorphous spirituality of his script with an emphatic lack of apology. (I felt my own conviction waver in a tricky late scene with Clooney that edges on patriarchal Old Hollywood syrup, but the emotional payoff is rousing enough to justify the means.) There’s a note of bombast to the finale that feels hard-earned after the staggering physical trials of what has gone before, and I do mean staggering: “Gravity” is a film both short and vast, muscular and quivery, as certain about one Great Beyond as it is curious about another.”