Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

October 1, 2013

CALLERI: The realities of history and outer space highlight two new movies

Niagara Gazette — The science fiction fantasy of Gravity” and the fictionalized focus on a presidential assassination in “Parkland” are rooted in a realism that is rare for what passes for American studio filmmaking these days.

Both movies rely on a “you are there” aspect of storytelling that draws in and engages the audience. Regarding “Gravity,” which is about astronauts literally lost in space, you view events as if you are a member of the mission crew. For “Parkland,” which has a quasi-documentary feel to it, the chaos in the hospital where President John F. Kennedy was taken after being shot is seen from the vantage point of someone at the scene. In both instances, the camera is the moviegoer.

“Gravity” is a space adventure, which, if it were a silent film with music, would rank as one of the greatest movies of all time. The problem is that the characters talk and too often what they say is repetitive and uninteresting. The screenplay never rises to the level of the truly magnificent visuals, which are so stunning that if you have the means, see the picture in IMAX 3D.

The story is focused and simple. A veteran American astronaut, the wise-cracking experienced Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), and a rookie astronaut, the medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are swept into a maelstrom of debris from an exploded satellite during a space walk that destroys their shuttle. They are set adrift in the cosmos. Will they make it to what represents security? After 91-minutes, you will know the answer.

The movie opens with gorgeous lyricism, advances with overwhelming dread, and ends with raw emotion. The beauty of outer space, and “Gravity” shows it as breathtakingly beautiful, cannot compensate for the terror the astronauts will experience. How far would someone float? A few miles? To the moon? To the end of the universe?

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