Early ‘Gravity’ Reax: Jaw-Dropping, Awe-Inspiring, Breath-Taking

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Gravity - Bullock and Clooney

It’s tough to miss a film festival where a highly anticipated movie is playing, but it’s a lot easier to handle when the reaction bursting out of the theater is roundly positive. Excitedly positive. None of this, “It was okay, but…” nonsense clouding the expectations game for something we want to blow our minds.

Enter Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity.

With stratospheric hopes, the new partnership between the Children of Men director and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki lands in theaters in early October, but Venice Film Festival goers got an early look, and apparently their eyes are completely dilated.

Here are some choice reactions:

Todd McCarthy, The Hollywood Reporter

“Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission,” George Clooney’s veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski half-jokes at the outset from his perch in orbit around Earth, which looms massively beneath. It’s a sentiment few viewers will agree with once their jaws begin dropping at Cuaron’s astonishing 13-minute opening shot, which gyrates and swoops and loops and turns in concert with the movements of the space shuttle and those of Matt, who jets around untethered while mission scientist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) tries to fix a technical problem outside the ship. 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.

McCarthy goes on to say that Lubezki has “outdone himself.” Those four words alone have my blood pumping at unsafe levels.

Justin Change, Variety

As scripted by Cuaron and his son Jonas, this tale of one woman’s grim expedition into the unknown is a nerve-shredding suspenser, a daring study in extreme isolation, and one of the most sophisticated and enveloping visions of space travel yet realized onscreen. It falls among that increasingly rare breed of popular entertainments capable of prompting genuine “How did they do that?” reactions from even the most jaded viewers, even as its central premise is so simple and immediately gripping that one might just as readily ask, “Why didn’t anyone do it sooner?”

Bullock inhabits the role with grave dignity and hints at Stone’s past scars with sensitivity and tact, and she holds the screen effortlessly once “Gravity” becomes a veritable one-woman show. In a performance that imposes extraordinary physical demands, the actress remains fully present emotionally, projecting a very appealing combo of vulnerability, intelligence and determination that not only wins us over immediately, but sustains attention all the way through the cathartic closing reels.

Robbie Collin, Daily Telegraph

Gravity: by turns profound & uproarious fusion of Michael Bay and Jean-Paul Sartre. Cuarón has absolutely nailed this. #Venice2013

— Robbie Collin (@robbiereviews) August 28, 2013

Guy Lodge, HitFix

I’m loath to explain the circumstances that ultimately require Ryan to navigate her own path back to Earth: partly because the film’s sharp, unexpectedly sentiment-soaked emotional switchbacks deserve protection, but also because story feels secondary to “Gravity” in the best possible way. Feeling is narrative here ‐ physical feeling, psychological feeling, bruised and agitated either way ‐ as the film ceases star-gazing (with dialling back on the gobsmacking pyrotechnics and deep-focus space vistas) to concentrate on the in-the-moment nitty-gritties of Ryan’s survival. Effortlessly sympathetic and resolute even when cocooned to near-invisibility in a spacesuit, Sandra Bullock puts her impressively restrained performance to the fore just when the film needs her to, without straying from the character’s slightly dour vulnerability or succumbing to focus-pulling bravado; it’s a role that at once requires a movie star, and requires her not to be one.

Oliver Lyttleton, The Playlist

The film’s technically perfect, of course, from the terrific sound design to the impeccable effects (the exact extent of the CGI is difficult to say, because pretty much everything looks photo-realistic, even when things head indoors). But it’s also cleverly written, and more than anything phenomenally directed; from the way that [Cuaron] uses every available surface to tell his story ‐ someone’s going to write a book one day on the use of reflections in this film ‐ to the way he and Lubezki shift the light to vary the color palette, preventing it from becoming repetitive, almost every decision is inspired.

Nick de Semlyen, Empire Magazine

Now that the embargo is up, I can say that what Jaws did for water, Gravity does for air.

— Nick de Semlyen (@NickdeSemlyen) August 28, 2013

What surprised me was how much of an action flick Gravity is. Non-stop, no-nonsense. It’s Speed in space. Hugely entertaining.

— Nick de Semlyen (@NickdeSemlyen) August 28, 2013

All of this is encouraging beyond belief.

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