Feeling Gravity’s Pull

October 26, 2013

from OMNI Reboot

The first 15 minutes of Gravity, director Alfonso Cuarón’s graceful and ambitious new film, provide one of the most startling, wondrous movie experiences ever delivered to the multiplex.

Floating in low-earth orbit, space shuttle astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) are diligently at work, spacewalking and making repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope. The rookie Stone is tethered to the satellite, while the veteran Kowalsky jets around in his thruster pack. The mood is relaxed and the view, as Kowalsky notes, can’t be beat.

The camera floats along, drifting in lazy ellipses. We marvel as these objects in space float in and out of view – the satellite, the shuttle, the impossibly beautiful and delicate Earth, and these two vulnerable souls locked in their hard shell space suits.

Complex trajectories swing the camera from long establishing shots to extreme close-ups. The 3-D effects produce wonders here that reveal the relative shabbiness of typical 3-D retrofitting. Cuarón is working with a more-or-less infinite depth of field, and he does things with spatial relationships that you’ve never seen before. In one seemingly unbroken 15-minute sequence, we swirl in giddy delight, weightless inside of Cuarón’s carefully crafted hi-tech illusion of orbital physics.

Oh, it’s a trip, man. For all the time, effort and money that’s put into the Hollywood spectacle machine, it’s actually pretty rare indeed to see something genuinely brand new on the silver screen. CGI has changed the game forever, especially with science fiction, and the effects people can usually generate anything a filmmaker can dream up. But no one’s dreamed up anything as graceful as this before.

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