Mind-blowing digital effects in the service of a gut-wrenching, emotional journey.
[do action=”moment” emo=”LookingGood” title=”SPAAAAACE! I’m in space!”/]
The film opens with a spacewalk scene that will blow the mind of anyone who loves cinema. How did they manage to shoot such a complex scene? The nearly fifteen-minute long uninterrupted shot, with its sparse soundtrack, feels adequately weightless without the anchors of sound and camera cuts.
[do action=”moment” emo=”Intense” title=”At last, 3D that makes sense”/]
The 3D is perfectly justified, perhaps for the first time in cinema history, as it helps us grasp the three-dimensional movements of objects on the screen. And after the laid-back banter of the opening scene, when the debris finally hit, the terror is visceral and all-encompassing. The absence of sound effects even as the astronauts’ world breaks apart around them, rather than take away from the terror, contributes to it immensely.
[do action=”moment” emo=”Creative” title=”In space someone can hear you feel”/]
A touching, understated counterpoint to the big set pieces, as Stone and Kowalski float around, held together by a single tether. The sense of isolation is all-encompassing. The tension is still there, thanks to Stone’s O2 meter, but it’s dialed back enough to give us a breather, while we learn why we should care about these two.
[do action=”moment” emo=”Intense” title=”A masterful use of music”/]
The second wave of debris really highlights how utterly perfect the music score is. The movie bravely sticks to the realistic “no sound in space” approach, but still underlines the devastating impact of debris by employing deep, rumbling bass in a perfectly-orchestrated score. The scene ends on a perfect note, as Stone must let go of the rope that binds her to Kowalski.
[do action=”moment” emo=”Smart” title=”Out of the space suit”/]
Now completely alone, Stone gets out of the space suit, and we get to see a weightless Bullock in a strangely intimate, almost fetal moment of devastation and exhaustion. We’re a bit miffed at this point that the movie stands on the shoulders of her character alone, because she’s not a particularly strong character: she seems to almost have a death wish, which is an odd choice for a survival story.
[do action=”moment” emo=”Exciting” title=”Buzz Lightyear returns”/]
We guess Clooney still had some elevating to do! His return is so cheerful and full of energy. He’s now here to save us from Bullock’s suicidal Stone, which is not helping Bullock’s character one bit. And he even brought the vodka!
[do action=”moment” emo=”Heartbreaking” title=”Alone”/]
…and lo, Kowalski was never there. This moment is the heart-wrenching emotional core of a brilliant movie, and it resolves Stone’s character arc in a beautiful manner. Cinematic perfection. We’re sorry for what we wrote about you, Stone. We’re behind you now.
[do action=”moment” emo=”Triumphant” title=”Return to Earth”/]
After Stone worked through her pain and desire to give up, it’s impossible not to root for her with every fiber of our beings. And she struggles so hard through it all: the re-entry, the fire in the cabin, the capsule sinking, getting out of the drowning suit… LIVE, STONE, DAMN YOU!
[do action=”moment” emo=”Triumphant” title=”Loving gravity”/]
Stone shakily stands up on the beach, alive, triumphant, without a line of cheesy dialog to ruin the conclusion to a superb character arc. And as credits roll, you realize that all this while, you only ever saw two actors on screen.