Every bit of footage of Alfonso Cuarón's Gravity released so far indicates that the fall film is something to behold, and reviews out of the Venice Film Festival are doing nothing to challenge that assumption.
Nancy Tartaglione of Deadline reports that the film "drew loud applause after a tight 90 minutes" in its first screening this morning, and is eliciting utterances of words like "astonishing" and "brilliant." Though it doesn't open stateside until October 4, Cuarón's space epic starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, has the honor of opening up the prestigious Italian festival tonight.
Are you excited yet? You should be, but you probably have some questions. We're here to answer them.
So just how good is it?
It's really good, so good reviewers are giving it superlatives. "At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise," Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter writes. Meanwhile, at Variety, Justin Chang basically posits that the film should restore one's faith in movies, writing that the film "is at once a nervy experiment in blockbuster minimalism and a film of robust movie-movie thrills, restoring a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide."
Does it make you feel like you're in space?
Yes. The summary accompanying McCarthy's review reads: "as close to feeling like you're in space as most of us will ever be." Oliver Lyttelton at Indiewire's The Playlist says essentially the same thing—"the film comes as close as most of us are likely to get to actually being in space"—but adds that Cuarón accomplishes as much with help from 3D.
Cuarón's a genius, right?
Yes. First of all, there is that little matter of the opening tracking shot, which, according to McCarthy, lasts 13 minutes, but the whole of the director's work is thoroughly impressive as well. "Almost every decision is inspired," Lyttelton writes. Chang calls Cuarón the "rare virtuoso capable of steering us through vividly imagined worlds and into deep recesses of human feeling."
So should I even pay attention to the actors?
Also, yes. Bullock and Clooney deserve their share of credit. Clooney's character provides some of the film's humor, but Chang explains that he "gets one particularly audacious scene that perhaps only a star of his stature could have managed, pulling the viewer through various states of shock, disbelief and finally bittersweet understanding." Of Bullock, Chang writes: "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." Lyttelton declares she is "about the best she’s ever been in a dramatic role" and McCarthy agrees, writing "Bullock is aces in by far the best film she's ever been in."
Who should I reference if I want to sound smart about this movie?
Stanley Kubrick, Max Ophüls, Ripley in Alien.
What other film out this year will Gravity be compared to?
J.C. Chandor's All Is Lost, a drama about a man (Robert Redford) lost at sea.
Is it perfect?
Of course not. McCarthy explains that the film "shies away from proposing anything metaphysical, philosophically suggestive or meaning-laden," continuing: "For some viewers, that will be a good thing, as it avoids pretention and self-seriousness; for others, its refusal to acknowledge the eternal mysteries, to be anything more than a thrillingly made, stripped-down suspense drama, will relegate it to good-but-not-great status." Geoffrey McNab of The Independent adds: "The one problem with Gravity is that the plotting never quite matches its visual imagination." Lyttelton also takes issue with one overt 2001 reference and an "overbearing" final music cue.
Are we excited to see this film?