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I have no particular expertise in film and no training in how to write intelligently about the medium. I'm just someone who loves American movies and goes to the theater almost every weekend. Nevertheless, having seen Gravity in 3D this weekend, I'm compelled to write a few quick words about it, simply because I feel obligated to do my part in spreading the word about this searing work of art. If a single person who otherwise had no intention of seeing Gravity goes and sees it because of this post, it will have been worth the time it took me to type it.

I should mention off the bat that, though I don't think anything written here can be reasonably described as a spoiler, others might have a looser interpretation of that term. If you insist on entering into any movie with a purely blank slate, to the extent that you don't even like seeing trailers or reading reviews, then you should probably stop reading now.

First, a simple truism: Gravity must be seen in 3D. Don't ask why. Don't argue. Don't tell me you don't like 3D or that the glasses are annoying. Just see it in 3D, and, when it's over, you will feel anything from sorrow to outright anger at the fact that some nontrivial amount of people will actually be seeing this movie in standard 2D form. It's nothing short of tragic.

In creating a film that effectively captures the sheer terror and unrivaled beauty of space, Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron (who also co-wrote and co-produced) has accomplished something that, to my knowledge, no one else has. This is rather surprising, given that we have seen virtually everything else in this age of mind-blowing special effects, including major American cities being struck by every kind of apocalyptic devastation imaginable. Space, though, has been elusive. I don't know why this is. But there was an opening for this kind of project and it's evident that Cuaron was the perfect director to step in and make a revolutionary film. I cede the floor to no less an authority than James Cameron: "I think it's the best space film ever done, and it's the movie I've been hungry to see for an awful long time." 

We can be grateful that two of the most professional actors around took on these roles. Clooney's Matt Kowalski is almost preternaturally cool and calm, but there's contextual justification for it; it's not just Cuaron letting Clooney ham it up for the sake of hamming it up. Bullock, though, who plays Dr. Ryan Stone, carries the film, and it's honestly difficult to think of another actress who could have pulled this off with a comparable display of emotional range and expertise. Maybe Natalie Portman, who passed on the role. Beyond her, I don't know. But this is the kind of role that would brutally expose even the slightest hint of of unsophisticated acting. Bullock just knows exactly what to do and how to do it in a way that keeps the audience breathless throughout. 

Checking Twitter as I was writing this, I saw Chris Hayes describe Gravity as "90 min of anxiety, stress, panic & unrelenting contemplation of the certainty of your own death." That sounds about right. Given the nature of this spectacle, other directors would have surely stretched it to two or three hours, but Cuaron instead opts for brutal efficiency. Partly out of necessity: this is such an exhausting, deeply unnerving ride, that, by the end of these 90 minutes, most people will simply be too emotionally drained to handle any more. I know I was.

The film never takes the easy way out or engages in any cheap tricks. The astonishing visual effects will leave you floored. You'll laugh and possibly cry. You'll feel awe and dread simultaneously. You'll be deeply unsettled, to the point of physical discomfort. This is a singular moviegoing experience. Go see Gravity!

{Originally posted at Crimethink}

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