February 17, 2014

Gravity (2013)
Warner Home Video

91 mins. PG-13
16x9 2.40:1

Format
Blu-Ray

Audio
English - DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio
French - DD 5.1
Spanish - DD 5.1

Subtitles
English, French, Spanish

Extras
Introduction, Featurettes, Short Film, DVD version, Digital HD Copy

Starring
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney

Review by
Guido Henkel


Rating



(2013)

"Gravity" was one of the most critically acclaimed movies to hit theaters last year, and now that Warner Home Video has prepared a Blu-Ray version of the movie by acclaimed director Alfonso Cuarón, I was eager to check it out.

While doing repair work on the Hubble Space Telescope, a group of astronauts are surprised by a shower of debris from a destroyed satellite that turns their routine spacewalk into a nightmare. The deadly shrapnels kill one of them instantly while veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and rookie Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) find themselves spiraling through space, tethered only to each other. With Kowalski's jet pack almost out of fuel they desperately try to reach the safety of their shuttle. With only 90 minutes remaining until the orbiting debris field would hit them again, a race against time ensues in the stillness of outer space, filled with the hope to safely return to Earth.

"Gravity" has been called any hyperbole you can think of and accordingly I was expecting a superlative movie experience. While my expectations have not entirely fulfilled, I found "Gravity" to be enjoyable. The entire film is metaphor. In fact, every frame is a metaphor, created for interpretation. Whether it's the character's state of mind or a foreshadowing of their current situation, you will find that every shot in the film has an underlying meaning. While artistically remarkable, I also found that it is the movie's weakest spot, because with all the metaphors, the story and characters actually take the backseat.

While the movie is filled with a number of remarkable action sequences and has a ticking clock throughout, to me it all felt very shallow. I never really felt for the characters. Kowalksi had no weaknesses, giving him an air of invincibility that no drama could destroy. While Ryan was a much more vulnerable character, the fact that she has little to live for and gives up hope herself, makes the danger surrounding her somewhat less threatening. If she's giving in to it and comes to terms with it, why shouldn't we? And after all, this is a Hollywood movie, and we all know how those end, right?

So, no matter how hard the film tried to get me emotionally invested, it just didn't work. Instead I found myself marveling at the glorious images of Earth from outer space and the serene quality of astronauts drifting through the void.

Arriving in a stellar - no pun intended - high definition transfer, "Gravity" presents us with an image that is staggeringly beautiful. The movie has incredible blacks, which are essential to evoke the sense of outer space and its vast expanse. These blacks are contrasted perfectly by rich colors and hues that bring to life the beauty of Earth as seen from a distance. Despite the beauty of our mother planet floating by beneath the scenery, the look is never romanticized, which is evident especially during the interior shots, where the palette looks stark with tremendous contrasts. Beautiful, is the only word that comes to mind when describing this transfer.

The release contains a DTS 5.1 HD Master Audio track to accompany the movie, and as expected, it is a fearsome experience. While space itself is entirely devoid of sound, the film manages to use sound effects to great effect, and especially the drowning score by Steven Price does its part to build the necessary atmosphere for the action we see on the screen. During interior shots, the sound field is also active with busy surrounds and dialogues are well mixed and always understandable.

"Gravity" also contains a wealth of bonus materials, including an introduction. A number of featurettes cover various aspects of the movie, such as the creation. "Gravity" is the brainchild of brothers Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón and they discuss in length the approach they took to make the movie. From the first idea, to fleshing out, to the technical challenges they found during the production, they are very candid about the making of the film. In addition, cast interviews round out the behind-the-scenes look as we learn more about this remarkable film.

Another featurette, called "Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space" discusses the general problem of pollution in space. Narrated by Ed Harris we get a better understanding what decades of accumulated space junk actually means as it orbits around Earth in a never-ending tumble.

"Aningaaq" is a short film by Jonás Cuarón that is also included on the disc, as well as the featurette "Sandra's Surprise!"

"Gravity" is a cool movie, an arresting visual experience that truly captivates you. It is a wonderful artistic achievement but not without its flaws, but that should not deter you from giving this film a look at all.

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