Why Gravity Was One of the Best Movies of 2013

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“Not to be ignored are the extremely realistic special effects in the film.” Photo via Warner Bros. Pictures under Creative Commons license

Earlier last year, I was lucky enough to see the space epic Gravity in theaters…

Twice.

During the first viewing, my mind was blown by the flawless special effects and the impeccable acting by Sandra Bullock. During the second viewing, my mind was blown by something not every moviegoer can appreciate: the direction.

Gravity is masterfully directed by Alfonso Cuarón, whose most significant previous work consists of Children of Men, and more notably Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It’s evident all throughout Gravity that Cuarón put forth his best effort during the movie’s creation.

To give an example without any spoilers, there is a scene in the film where Bullock’s character is flipping through the pages of a book in zero gravity. This scene had the potential to spoil the film’s immersion; Bullock could have just turned the pages over and let them fall down with gravity, revealing that she was in a studio on Earth, and not in space. However, Cuarón never let this happen. During the scene, or any scene where a book is handled by a character, Bullock guides the pages a full 360o with her hand before releasing it behind the other pages of her book. I could tell that Cuarón was working overtime to keep these fatal mistakes out of his movie. In fact, his direction was so effective at this that only real astronauts could de-bunk his space errors.

Aside from just preventing mistakes, Cuarón had to direct scenes that had no real dialogue or predictable, scripted action. When Sandra Bullock and George Clooney were bouncing off of space stations and debris, it wasn’t just random physics that dictated which way they bounced. Alfonso successfully created scenes of catastrophe and confusion so well-directed that it looked like what was happening was spontaneous. He had to plan what the astronauts were going to hit, where it was going to hit them, and which way they were going to float afterwards. Considering all of the scenes in which characters collide with objects in zero gravity, this is a magnificent feat.

In addition to the incredible direction, there’s also the fantastic performance by Sandra Bullock. She’s on-screen for almost the entire movie, and she never ruined a single second of it. Every line she utters has a certain weight to it; the emotion behind the words can be felt with every sentence. Each facial expression contains the mental burden that her character is forced to endure and eventually overcome. I can’t imagine anyone else in the role she portrayed doing a better job.

Also, not to be ignored are the extremely realistic special effects in the film. Not once did I doubt that Sandra Bullock was actually orbiting Earth. I hadn’t been so immersed in an artificial world since I saw Avatar. Seeing the movie in 3D was almost necessary to get the full effect and achieve complete immersion, but I imagine 2D viewers had nothing to complain about, either. Each space shuttle was perfectly crafted and sculpted; one would never believe that they only existed inside an animator’s computer.

Every single aspect of Gravity emanates effort. It’s very evident that all cast and crew members tried their hardest to make this movie the best it could possibly be. The result of their determination is a wonderfully-crafted film that can be described not as a movie, but as a cinematic experience. With a knockout combination of expertly directed action, heart-wrenching acting, and out-of-this-world special effects (you knew I had to use that term at least once in this editorial), Gravity is possibly one of the greatest movies released in 2013. I certainly hope it wins Best Picture come Oscar season.