Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey, Jr. starring in director Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity? Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are cast well in roles to which Angelina Jolie and Robert Downey, Jr., were originally attached. Sandra Bullock inhabits her character of Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first space flight, with such determination and conviction that it seems difficult to imagine any other person in that role, even though such players as Natalie Portman, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively, Naomi Watts, Olivia Wilde, and Marion Cotillard were all considered for the role between the time that Angelina Jolie passed on the role and production began with Sandra Bullock as the lead. Director Alfonso Cuaron’s Academy Award nominated Gravity arrives on 3D Blu-ray in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that delivers the film’s big screen pageantry into home theater reference material.
Studio: Warner Brothers
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 31 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, 3D Blu-ray, DVD, UltraVioletAmaray
Disc Type: BD25 (single layer)
Release Date: 02/25/2014
Dr. Ryan Stone(Sandra Bullock) is a medical engineer on her first space flight on board the space shuttle Explorer. As the film opens, Stone is on a spacewalk during the shuttle’s rendezvous with the Hubble Telescope while commander Matt Kowalski(George Clooney) is using his thruster pack to travel in circles around the shuttle while regaling Mission Control with anecdotes of his misadventures. Tragedy strikes with the arrival of a newly created cloud of space debris from a Russian missile destroying an orbiting satellite. With the loss of their ride back to Earth, Stone and Kowalski struggle for survival as one opportunity after another disappears from their grasp. Ed Harris appropriately plays the voice of Mission Control, following up on his roles in The Right Stuff and Apollo 13.
The Production Rating: 4.5/5
Alfonso Cuaron(Children of Men) directed the film from an original screenplay by Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron(son of Alfonso). Gravity is a fast-paced film, even for its running time of 91 minutes, with its players almost always in movement as one event or catastrophe leads directly into the next one, and the astronauts are forced constantly to react and regroup their plans to survive. This element of action and suspense is elevated by Cuaron’s usage of extended shots with very few cuts, granting the film an almost documentary feel, since multiple cuts can draw the viewer out of the experience. Some extended point of view shots (Brian DePalma could not have done better) also make the film immersive by granting viewers the impression that we really are there living this experience along with Dr. Stone.
Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Stone talks to herself a lot when she is alone, and this dramatic device is justified well with Kowalski’s exposition that Mission Control may be able to hear them even if they cannot hear Mission Control. A logical explanation for Dr. Stone to be saying everything she is thinking out loud makes the film more engaging during the stretches of time when Bullock’s character would have no reason otherwise to speak at all.
Cuaron is definitely a strong contender to win an Academy Award as best director for Gravity, even if the film does not win the best picture category. The technological challenges of filming the actors and matching the footage with CGI rendering must have been daunting, and Cuaron has succeeded in blending the footage seamlessly and maintaining an element of suspense during a film that feels like it happens in real time like the television series 24, regardless of whether that is actually the case in the film. The cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki(The Tree of Life) is also deserving of an Academy Award.
Gravity appears on 3D Blu-ray in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Colors are vibrant and lifelike with great contrast. Blacks are always solid and shadow detail is excellent. The video delivers the spectacle of space exploration and the beauty of our planet from orbit in a way that we could only imagine, were it not for its actual display in this film courtesy of CGI special effects. The continuous and extended opening shot with Stone and Kowalski on their spacewalk gives us a grand view of planet Earth and our galaxy that might make some viewers dizzy from the camera movements.
Video Rating: 5/5 3D Rating: 4.5/5
The 3D imagery in Gravity is excellent, especially given that most of the footage was post-conversion rather than natively filmed in 3D. Recent films like Gravity and Pacific Rim demonstrate that post-converted 3D films can rival anything native. Although objects are often moving towards the viewer or visibly suspended in zero G, there is not as much "pop-out" in this film than one would expect. The dimensionality of the stereo window is evident within the picture rather than without, reminiscent of the usage of 3D in films from the 50s, with multiple levels of depth visible to create that subconscious impression of actually being there, not just watching a film. Ghosting was minimal to non-existent when viewed on a Panasonic plasma display.
The DTS 5.1 Master Audio is reference quality. Directional audio is excellent, and sound effects and music have been blended so seamlessly with the video that to compare the video without the audio, and vice versa, does disservice to both. Dynamic range is incomparable and dialogue is always audible over the music score. The immersive quality of Gravity is due in no small part to the sublime combination of video and audio. The opening scene in the film begins in silence and then radio chatter by the astronauts very gradually increases into audibility to illustrate the expanse of the void of outer space. The increase in audio volume is so gradual that a viewer can be forgiven for believing mistakenly that something is amiss in the audio at the beginning of the film, when in fact this seems to be a deliberate artistic choice.
Audio Rating: 5/5
The studio has received criticism for failing to release this film with the original 7.1 audio. I never saw Gravity in 7.1 so I have no point of reference for that, except to judge the DTS 5.1 Master Audio for what it is, rather than for what it is not. Given studios’ propensity for issuing multiple releases repetitively of the same film, I have confidence that Gravity will be released in a new edition with 7.1 audio within the next 18 months, perhaps in an "Academy Award winning" or "2nd Anniversary" Special Edition. (I say that tongue-in-cheek but there is some truth there as well.)
The 3D version of the film includes only the film, with the special features included on the 2D Blu-ray and DVD. For details on the special features, and for a different take on the film, check out Cameron Yee’s excellent review at: http://www.hometheat...blu-ray-review/
Special Features Rating: 4/5
Gravity has earned its acclaim as one of the best and most entertaining films of 2013. Although it requires some suspension of disbelief in its science, so does any other film, and while Gravity is not a realistic documentary, it succeeds in its mission for verisimilitude. The video and audio on this 3D Blu-ray are reference quality and well worth the price of admission. Gravity in 3D is highly recommended for anyone with a 3D display.
Overall Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewed By: Timothy E
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