People with a lot of pride in their home theaters often use blockbusters as their tool to show off the tech to friends. They revel in the system’s ability to cleanly handle the bass notes and booming explosions that define battle sequences.
Gravity would reveal the shortcomings of those systems. In fact, it easily stands as the best case in favor of seeing a movie in a theater this year. There’s no way to replicate the effect of seeing this on a movie screen with a home theater.
Right from the opening, a crescendo of Steven Price’s electrifying score drops out, and we’re in space. Lonely, vast, and immersive. The 3D stretches everything back an immeasurable distance, giving a sense of how far below the atmosphere is, let alone the earth. And how nothing else is reachable. We drift in and a shuttle drifts towards us, and from the brilliant previews you all know what happens next.
Cuaron uses a combination of newly developed and classic techniques to put us in helmet with his actors, and to perfectly represent weightlessness. He captures the remote, unforgiving void of space. He’s designed a taut film and a technical marvel to boot. There are shots here that are achingly beautiful to look at. The score and sound design are intricately woven together to capture the experience of “hearing” in a vacuum, where sound is more illusory, the product of vibration against your suit disturbing what air pressure there is inside to present the ghost of sound.
And none of this would work without the performances of George Clooney and especially Sandra Bullock. She’s in new territory here, working almost entirely alone to reveal her character’s fear, despair, loss, and hope. Her cathartic journey is executed with such skill she humanizes every technical element, and connects the audience with her character. Working with his son Jonas, Alfonso Cuaron puts dead center the humanity most technically driven films forget, and Bullock and Clooney absolutely make it work.
This plays out brilliantly in the theater, where the 3D and immersive sound put you right into the movie. Where the size and clarity of the image makes it possible to see the edge of the atmosphere and feel the sudden terror of an open space suddenly filled with bullet-fast debris. Gravity is a stunning film, top to bottom.