Judgments at 24 frames per second – Movie review: ‘Gravity’

Movies were made to be a form of escape. They were made to suspend an audience member’s reality and take them somewhere new, somewhere they’d probably never go otherwise.

However plausible or absurd the premise, the best movies suspend an audience member’s disbelief and make them feel something more than just escapism. They can make the audience laugh so hard that they feel like the characters on screen can hear them, cry so hard that they feel like the rest of their day won’t be the same or, in some rare cases, feel so afraid that they forget there’s a world outside the theater.

“Gravity” is one of those rare cases.

The film tells the story of a pair of astronauts who are stranded in space after their shuttle is destroyed and manages to put space on film (digital in this case) in a way that it never has been done before.

Alfonso Cuarón hasn’t directed a film since 2006’s “Children of Men,” and after seeing “Gravity,” one could understand the delay.

Despite the fact that the film only really has two speaking characters, it feels as grandiose as any other larger-scale film.

This is aided by the film’s 3-D and special effects. If any movie was made to be seen in 3-D, it’s “Gravity.” Adding depth to a black background full of tiny stars is no easy feat, but Cuarón’s regular cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki, knows how to utilize 3-D to frightening effect.

Space has almost always come across as unbelievable when put on film. To make a movie set in space seem like anything more than just that always seemed impossible. “Gravity” made me believe, though.

Even technically, the film seems almost impossible to produce.

“Gravity” opens with one, single 13-minute shot that moves and turns through space, establishing the characters, setting and mood all at once.

The Mexican director has always been known for his visual flare and extended takes but refines and challenges even his own style with “Gravity.”

Visuals aside, the effectiveness of storytelling is also something that Cuarón has always excelled at, and “Gravity” is no exception. Despite taking place in a silent, empty space where movement is slowed and shortened, the film’s plot moves at a rapid pace, going from dire situation to dire situation.

On paper, a film with two actors floating around space by themselves has the potential to be extremely boring. But much like with the quiet isolation that Tom Hanks endured in “Cast Away,” a great performance can keep the audience invested.

“Gravity” is two for two when it comes to great performances.

Both Sandra Bullock and George Clooney believably play their characters through every moment, which could be aided by the real-time nature of acting brought on by the lengthy takes.

Before “Gravity,” I had very little respect for Sandra Bullock. I’d always thought of her as a sweet, funny celebrity with an actual personality but never as a serious actress. Sure, she was okay in “The Blind Side,” but almost anyone could have played that part as well or better than she did.

But having seen “Gravity,” I can’t imagine any other actress convincing me the way she did.

One performance usually doesn’t change my mind entirely, but this is a very special performance, one that could give her an Oscar that she genuinely deserves.

Whether you’re looking for a great science fiction adventure, an emotional human journey or a sometimes terrifying experience, see “Gravity.” And see it in 3-D.

It’s one of those rare movie experiences that has the potential to change filmmaking as an art form.

To put it simply, “Gravity” is a masterpiece.