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Gravity (Blu-ray)

Warner Home Video / 2013 / 91 min / PG-13

The Film:

Gravity is one of the most remarkable disaster films ever simply for how it does away with the baggage associated with the sub-genre. There are no extra characters, filler developments, forced humor or subplots. It's a very simple tale of survival conceived in the high-tech landscape of Earth's orbit. It's a visual marvel in the same realm as 2001: A Space Odyssey with the exception of the story being about getting back to Earth instead of discovering the meaning of life. On that level, Gravity may not be the most thought-provoking sci-fi picture, but it certainly hits its target dead center.

The only two characters we're introduced to and follow throughout the picture are astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). During a satellite repair mission, their shuttle is shredded by a debris storm from a missile strike on a Russian satellite. With their ride and crew gone, the two must use their limited jet propulsion and oxygen to navigate their way from space station to space station to make it back to Earth. The slightest miscalculation will result in their demise. And, just in case it seemed too easy, the debris storm orbits every 90 minutes ripping apart anything in its path. The only way things could be worse is if an asteroid was orbiting as well.

Director Alfonso Cuarón makes his version of outer space more believable than any other production. The illusion of a frictionless environment feels very real as the astronauts maneuver in the silent and thick void. This is due to both the seamless computer graphics and Cuarón's signature camera shots. The very first scene features an extensive shot as we follow Kowalski propelling himself around the shuttle and helping Stone with repairs. Cuarón doesn't just give us some stunning visual shots, but allows us to explore the limitless space around the actors and drink in the view.

The characters could've easily just been props for the visual feast, but they're given just enough development to form a connection. Ryan Stone reveals a backstory during the trek that almost gives her a reason to give up making the journey. It makes her drive to survive that much harder. We've seen survival films about those who have loved ones at home they want to live for. It was refreshing to follow a character that didn't have much of anything waiting for them. Sandra Bullock does an exceptional job selling this flawed and frightened woman forced into the worst scenarios.

What I most admired about the film more than anything else was the sound. The score by Steven Price and the quiet ambiance of outer space make the film chillingly real and intense. During the scenes where shuttles and space stations explode and rip apart, there is no sound. Some directors might feel the need to amplify these shots with the sounds of explosions and tearing metal. Alfonso Cuarón has enough faith in the visuals that we don't need any of that. As a result, it's the most terrifying and thrilling depiction of space I've seen since Alien. After 90 minutes, Gravity had taken me on a sci-fi adventure that delivered on everything I wanted to see and feel out of this type of movie. It's an unforgettable experience that stayed with me long after and made me all the more eager for a second viewing just to catch all the detail.

The Disc:

This is a perfect movie for an HDTV and Warner Home Video does Gravity justice on Blu-ray. The 1080p transfer is unbelievably eye-popping with stunning sharpness and vibrant color balance. I was worried about how well the effects would appear outside of the perfect 3D IMAX experience, but they hold up remarkably well. The DTS-HD Master audio also bodes well with the subtle sound effects and thrilling score by Steven Price.

The Extras:

Much like with Pacific Rim, Warner Brothers has packed this Blu-ray with over 3 hours of special features.

There is about 100 minutes worth of behind the scenes featurettes that cover everything from the writing to the concept animation to the creative special effects to the science behind it all. The amount of effort put into this production on every level is incredibly intricate and detailed. In particular, it's impressive to see how physical Sandra Bullock's role was and how much she was willing to endure.

If you're curious about the specifics of certain set pieces, there is a little over half an hour's worth of featurettes focusing on the production of key shots from the space station fire to the splash down sequence.

If you were curious about that one scene where Ryan Stone makes contact with Earth for a brief period, there is a short film on the disc that displays just what went down on the other side of that call.

Finally, there is a special documentary included; Collision Point: The Race to Clean Up Space, narrated by Ed Harris.

Our Say:

Gravity may just be a special effects marvel of a non-stop survival adventure through space, but it's just so beautifully crafted you can't help but be entranced by the journey. It's a wonder of science fiction that is destined to go down as one of the benchmarks of the genre simply for how high it raises the bar in visuals and tone. A very high recommendation for the most pulse-pounding thrill ride of 2013.

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