Ben Brockman (lifeinrewind)Renton, Wa
Ben's Recent Reviews
Let's start with some one word movie reviews for "Gravity": Immersive. Intense. Beautiful. Suspenseful. Traumatizing. Inspiring. Tragic. Therapeutic. Brilliant. Masterpiece.
Now some two word movie reviews for "Gravity": Superbly acted. Agonizingly realistic. Picture window. Instant Classic. New standard. Hyperboles needed.
And finally, three word movie reviews for "Gravity": See it now. Tell your friends.
Simply put, I have never before experienced anything like Alfonso Curon's "Gravity" in a theater. It's a visceral, cerebral experience that will leave you as close to a new person as a survivalist thriller possibly could. Standing somehow feels different, as if one floated and spun in the vacuum of space for 90 minutes. It not only makes the audience feel they are alongside the actors, but due to some nifty video-game-like first person effects, you'll often feel like you are the actors. This is by design both in the characterizations as well as the expert direction. The man who previously stamped his name on "Children of Men" and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" set out to make a game-changer, and he quite clearly succeeded. Not to take anything away from "Children of Men," by the way, which is, critically speaking, probably an even better movie. But where "Children of Men" had more to say in terms of the human condition and humanity's future, "Gravity" is concerned with now, with the moment, and that experience. Both films are monumental achievements that need to be seen.
One big note: "Gravity" almost certainly requires being seen on the largest IMAX screen possible, and yes, in 3D. To my delight, the same 3D tag I usually deride so much as a money-making gimmick that adds little films has for once been perfectly utilized. Outside of perhaps James Cameron's Avatar, there's never before been a film to explore 3D to such great effect, and to add so much to not just the atmosphere but even the central themes. A smaller screen will certainly still provide an impressively intense experience, but if you want to feel like you are in the movie, this one is worth shelling out the cash for.
"Gravity" is incredibly effective from the opening shot, a beautiful moment of silence as the Earth slowly drifts into view to fill up the screen. I swore I was looking through an actual window out in space, never before has an image resonated with such realistic clarity. Not long after the main plot kicks into gear, and it's almost non-stop intensity until the end. Curon again shows his flair for impossibly lengthy one-takes, where the action seems to unfold in real-time and the camera never cuts away. The first shot of "Gravity" continues for over 17 minutes before ever changing to a different view. Imagine a top-notch amusement park ride done by one of the most talented film-makers to work a camera, add in top-level acting and score, and you have an idea of how effective this is. The camera is a character in itself, floating over and around our astronauts continuously. When it isn't, its weaving in and out of direct point-of-view, or drifting back to deliver some of the most lush, astounding visuals ever put on a screen.
In the brief moments of calm, we get to know our main characters, portrayed by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Bullock provides the role of her entire career, sure to win over all but her most harsh critics. She's empathetic, inspiring, and above all a realistic every-man (or at least, as close to one as there could be in the situation). An Oscar nomination is almost guaranteed. Clooney provides his usual dependable charm, and although not a lot is asked of him for the role, the comic relief is perfectly applied, allowing the audience some much-needed break from the consistent tension and suspense. Although not without moments of obvious fiction, a great effort was made to add realism to the proceedings, resulting in aspects such as explosions making no sound. This adds an element of horror that was very unexpectedly delightful. In place of the usual BOOM! BANG! BLAM! the score by Steven Price is there to guide the audience emotions. He nails it. From the quiet, ambient moments to the rush of adrenaline he pumps into the action-heavy scenes, it's a fantastic companion right up through the majestic climax.
One might think that will all this focus on providing an immersive experience for the film-goer, that the story and themes would be underdeveloped. The story is fairly simple, yes. It'd be easy to dismiss it at that, but I would argue that making it more complicated would have taken much away from the universal reliability of the situations we find ourselves in. In only brief moments do we feel that Curon's theme's are being too forcefully applied (One spot is most obvious. Hint: it features a character talking to themselves). Most of the time, he lets the images do the talking, allowing for subtle but unmistakable moments of levity. There are several images from this film that I haven't gotten out of my mind, replaying over and over. I was also pleased to find out that the main conflict/disaster in the film is based off of real concerns with space exploration. The metaphors are plenty, and they add up to so much more than you'd expect. The intensity is almost too much to take at times, and that's surely the most obvious thing anyone will notice, but I was pleased in how much emotion could be stirred up. It's a deeply effecting film on multiple levels, leading it to be all to easy to forget one is watching a film.
I could go on, but instead I'll fall back to another one word review for "Gravity":
Ben's Favorite Movies
Simply put, The Empire Strikes back is virtually flawless, and easily my favorite film of all time. Combining the epic story, iconic characters, and wonderful imagination of the original Star Wars trilogy with the masterful character driven direction of Irvin Kershner results in a breathtaking cinematic experience. It can be considered a masterpiece all on its own, and this is in large part to the superior storytelling techniques on display.
Empire Builds on the excellent original film with improved dialog that is consistently witty, and the character development is superb. As with all Star Wars films, the special effects are impressive and provide new exciting worlds to explore. The screenplay deserves credit for giving meaning to the entire trilogy, especially the scenes with Yoda, which get surprisingly deep in the psychological sense.
This may also be the finest score John Williams has ever composed among a career full of them. In fact, this is fittingly one of the greatest scores composed for a motion picture. Every scene is done perfectly, with memorable musical cues for every character, and gives us such iconic themes as "The Imperial March" and the poignant love theme that beautifully closes the film.
There is not a scene in Empire that doesn't serve its purpose effectively. The screenplay is one of the very best, balancing so much character driven story with a thrilling plot and one of the best twist endings ever. Every major character benefits from a strong dramatic story arc. The film is also remarkably effective at achieving a perfect balance of action, humor, tension, and romance. Often times credited with being almost too dark when compared to the other installments, Empire actually stands out as the Star Wars movie with the most genuine wit and humor. It features lots of comic relief, provided by not only the side characters but also with the ever engaging banter between Han Solo and Princess Leia, which adds a level of believability to the romantic subplot. The scenes between Han and Leia are some of the best ever captured in a major blockbuster such as this. Harrison Ford completely cements Han Solo as one of the coolest movie characters of all time in this film.
This episode makes the most out of being the middle act in the trilogy by jumping almost immediately into an exciting battle with the attack on Hoth, and also features plenty of other action, such as the asteroid field chase (both again benefiting from the excellent score). The action on cloud city also serves as being refreshingly suspenseful in its simplicity. And as good as the earlier scenes are, the light saber duel between Dath Vader, the greatest movie villain of all time, and Luke Skywalker is a masterpiece in character driven action. So much is going on between the lines in Empire it would be impossible to fully cover it. Suffice to say that there is more accomplished in thesescenes emotionally than in anything seen in the entire prequel trilogy.The ending of the film is, again, beautifully done, with its cliffhanger nature feeling strangely resolved and poetic.
The spectacle of incredible effects, characters, and story all comes together in one incredible package, and makes The Empire Strikes Back one of the finest achievements in film history. 10/10
After reflection, I reward Christopher Nolan's masterpiece "Inception" a perfect rating, one of only a handful of movies I've ever given that rating to. The man who blew me away with "Memento," "The Prestige," and "The Dark Knight" has easily solidified himself as the greatest filmmaker of the last decade in my opinion.
How good is "Inception?" It's already in my top 10 movies of all time. It might even be top 5. Time will tell if it holds up as well on repeat viewings (EDIT: IT DOES!), but I was blown away many times in the theater in ways I haven't felt since I saw the original Matrix. This film features special effects that you seriously have to see to believe. It has a superbly crafted plot, complicated enough to demand the viewer's full attention but presented in a way that doesn't cheat or degenerate into nonsense. Much like the plot itself, there are many layers to the film that manages to combine so many well known genres, rolling it all together into one of the most unique experiences I've had. It is almost like experiencing two or three amazing movies at once.
It's easy to tell how much work and dedication went into the making of this film. Christopher Nolan has a lot on his mind and it's rare to find a movie that simultaneously pulls off being such an entertaining summer blockbuster while existing as a work of psychologically challenging art. A perfect cast of characters are paired with an amazing score by Hans Zimmer, and "Inception" flies through it's extended running time by taking the intensity meter up to 11 and leaving it there for over half of it's run-time. The viewer barely has a chance to catch their breath while taking in all the twists, turns, and to borrow a phrase from Neo, "Whoa" moments. It is easily the best film to come out since The Dark Knight. You have simply never seen something quite like this before.
Christopher Nolan has gained so much respect by demanding attention to detail from his audience, never insulting them, but always staying a few steps ahead. It's rare for a film to live up to the hype (which I'm no doubt adding to with this review) but trust me when I say this is the kind of movie that makes a great barometer for other critics. To put it bluntly, I can't trust a movie review from someone that can't enjoy this movie on some level.
As this thrill ride of a film was coming to a close, and the theater audience was reacting to the final frame, I confirmed to myself what I had thought several times during the film: "Inception" is something special. 10/10