Gravity Blu-ray ReviewFebruary 16, 2014
In Gravity, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is on her first-ever spacewalk, helping to service the aging Hubble Space Telescope alongside the veteran Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), who is on his final mission. During this seemingly routine expedition, all hell breaks loose when a satellite is destroyed in orbit, sending space debris hurtling towards them at upwards of 50,000 miles per hour. Their space shuttle is destroyed, their crew mates are all killed, and Stone and Kowalski are thrust into deep space tethered to nothing but each other. With their oxygen and battery levels reaching zero, panic sets in as the pair attempts to reach one of the neighboring space shuttles before the debris comes back around again. What follows is a tale of self-discovery, survival and spiritual rebirth, as the pair resolve to make it back home at any cost.
Gravity is without a doubt one of the most groundbreaking and visually breathtaking films released in the last few years. Director Alfonso Cuarón expertly ramps up the tension throughout, crafting an edge-of-your-seat thriller that pushes the boundaries of photorealism in computer graphics. This is a film that demands to be seen in high definition – the four years Gravity spent in development can be seen in every frame. The special features reveal that nearly every object in the movie is digital, aside from the actors’ faces, which makes the striking realism of the visuals all the more awe-inspiring. The fact that the team was able to create such a majestic film with only two actors sitting in front of a green screen just blows my mind.
Sandra Bullock is, for a large part of Gravity, putting on a one-woman show, and the fact that the film remains as captivating as it does with only one actress and a digital background is impressive. This is owed equally to the computer graphics team, Cuarón’s precise direction, Steven Price’s incredible score, excellent sound design, and of course Sandra Bullock and George Clooney’s spot-on performances. Dr. Stone’s character is suffering from a traumatic loss at the film’s outset – unable to move on and live her life. As she faces death at every turn throughout Gravity, at times it seems that Stone is ready to just give up and die. Kowalski does everything he can to not only help her survive, but let go of the past. There are deeper meanings to just about everything in this movie, but the theme of rebirth is by far the most prevalent.
The soundtrack and sound design in Gravity are practically one and the same. The filmmakers’ approach was that since there is no sound in space, they would simply use the vibrations that the characters feel through their space suits as the basis of the sound mix. If there’s an explosion, you don’t hear it – you might hear the vibrations that echo through the suit as a character holds onto a piece of the space shuttle for dear life. The music itself is written and mixed in such a way that it manages to support the action by itself. This is a very minimalistic soundtrack – a few steps above a silent film – but what’s there feels more accentuated and important because of this. Blaring brass horns and percussion would not work here, and by taking away most of Steven Price’s tools they’ve created an incredibly unique soundtrack.
The following special features are on both the DVD and Blu-ray versions of the film:
- Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space (HD, 22:28 ) Ed Harris narrates this short documentary about the tons of space debris floating around the Earth, and how if we don’t clean up this mess, something like the events depicted in the film could come to pass.
- ‘Aningaaq’ (HD, 10:11) This short film by co-writer Jonás Cuarón shows the radio conversation that Dr. Stone had aboard the Soyuz, but from the other person’s perspective. Features an introduction by Jonás and Alfonso Cuarón.
Gravity packs an insane amount of special features exclusive to the Blu-ray – nearly three hours’ worth. If you enjoyed the film, it’s must-see material, showcasing everything from the initial script and storyboards to previsualisation, how they were able to get the zero gravity shots, the creation of the soundtrack, and basically every aspect of production. This feature-length documentary can be watched all at once with a Play All function or in individual chapters:
- It Began with a Story
- Initial Challenges: Long Shots and Zero G
- Previsualizing Gravity
- The Hues of Space
- Physical Weightlessness
- Space Tech
- Sandra and George: A Pair in Space
- Final Animation
- Complete Silence
- Shot Breakdowns (HD, 36:48). A look at the amazing digital artwork that was put into this film. It’s incredible just how much of Gravity is purely CGI – even the visors that the astronauts wear and their breath against them.
- Behind The Visor
- Fire in the International Space Station
- Dr. Stone’s Rebirth
- The Sound of Action in Space
- Film Festivals (HD). Lists the film festivals in which Gravity was an official selection.
Without a doubt, Gravity is a must-see film, and the Blu-ray is the best way to see it. With a wealth of incredible, in-depth special features, it’s hard for me to think of anything that this package is missing aside from trailers and commentary. Highly recommended.