Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

Telluride Film Festival Review: Is Alfonso Cuarón's 'Gravity' A New Kind of Cinema?

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire September 1, 2013 at 2:04PM

There's an implicit irony to the title of "Gravity," director Alfonso Cuarón's lost-in-space odyssey, because gravity rarely enters into the equation. Almost entirely shot in a stunningly realistic but entirely digital representation of space, the movie might be the most spectacular two-hander of all time. Working from a script co-written with his brother Jonás, Cuarón follows astronauts Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) and Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) on a space shuttle mission gone wrong and sticks with them as they drift around the planet in peril for 93 minutes.
9
Gravity, Sandra Bullock
"Gravity."

There's an implicit irony to the title of "Gravity," director Alfonso Cuarón's lost-in-space odyssey, because gravity rarely enters into the equation. Almost entirely shot in a stunningly realistic but entirely digital representation of space, the movie might be the most spectacular two-hander of all time. Working from a script co-written with his son Jonás, Cuarón follows astronauts Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) and Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) on a space shuttle mission gone wrong and sticks with them as they drift around the planet in peril for 93 minutes.

The virtual camera practically never stops moving in several directions, aping the weightlessness afflicting the characters with simultaneously hypnotic and disorienting results. Four years in production, "Gravity" presents an artificial world that could only have been made today, and provides a fantastic showcase of new possibilities.

Cuarón has long explored the power of long, unbroken takes: "Children of Men" imbued battle scenes and car crashes with horrific realism, while "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" practically spent more time constructing its wizardly universe than forwarding the plot. His use of the approach here, however, takes on entirely new dimensions. In the roughly 13 minute opening shot, the shuttle slowly drifts into view while the planet pokes into the side of the frame, while the frame increasingly magnifies the performers, swirling about them as they tinker with the Hubble Telescope and trade barbs with mission control down below. While Matt enjoys a freedom of movement allowed by his jetpack, Ryan and a third colleague remain tethered to the vehicle, but their stability doesn't last long: The sudden announcement that shattered satellite debris is heading their way forces the trio into panic mode, but given little time to react, they're abruptly assaulted by speeding detritus and severed from their craft.

Cuarón doesn't cut once, creating the first of many immersions into the empty surroundings and the immediate sense that you're watching a historic achievement. Along with capturing the vividness of the accident, he roots it in human experience, as the camera gradually gets closer to his subjects and eventually makes its way into one of their helmets. Melting the CGI imagery into a physical intimacy with his subjects, Cuarón establishes a delicate balance largely in place for the frantic remainder of the movie.

While some cinematographers have voiced trepidation over the role of their craft in the context of such heavily digitized techniques -- most recently, Christopher Doyle spoke out against "Life of Pi" winning an Oscar for Best Cinematography -- "Gravity" director of photography Emmanuel Lubezki clearly relishes the opportunity to play with new tools. Reflecting the same weightless of its subjects, the camera possesses the free-roaming quality of space itself. At times, it zips along with its subjects before hanging back and watching them transform into blinking lights against the unforgiving darkness, as if a traveling astrophotographer simply happened upon the dramas of the NASA crew.

The accomplishments of "Gravity" arrive right on schedule, representing the culmination of several years worth of purely green screen storytelling in Hollywood productions that include "Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow" as well as Zack Snyder's Spartan battlefields in "300." But while those movies and several others treated their fabricated worlds with traditional filmmaking techniques, "Gravity" uses them in the service of a full-on ride.

This article is related to: Reviews, Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón, Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Science Fiction, Telluride Film Festival, Festivals, Warner Bros.






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More