It's been almost four weeks since I first saw Alfonso Cuarón's quite brilliant, "I'm stuck in space and I'd like to go back to Earth now," movie, Gravity. I only point this out because that means I've had an inordinate amount of time to think about Gravity.
More than any other movie that's coming out anytime soon, people ask me, "What did you think of Gravity?" This is an utterly reasonable question considering what I do for a living. Unfortunately, I never have a better answer than, "It's awesome." (Once, after a third pint of what I'm sure was a domestic light beer, I answered that question by saying "It's bitchin'" -- which is remarkable because that might be the first time I've ever used that word in an adult conversation that didn't involve The Dead Milkmen.)
The source of my frustration, I think, is coming from the feeling that I'm supposed to find some sort of deep meaning in Gravity. That my answer to that question should be, "Oh, heavens, it's so deep," or, "I thought about my own mortality and just how small we are in this universe and I now walk away humbled." Instead, I just keep answering, "It's awesome." (And, once, "It's bitchin.'")
The plot of Gravity is fairly simple. During a space shuttle mission, a rogue field of space debris destroys the shuttle, leaving the surviving astronauts -- Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) -- fending for their lives in the hostile vacuum of space without a spaceship, desperately calling back to NASA (remember when that organization was funded by a working U.S. government?) for any assistance possible.
Before I saw Gravity, I really was prepared for a deeply introspective movie that would leave me pondering my own mortality. Instead, I found myself thinking that I had just watched one of the best action movies that I had ever seen. I felt guilty, actually. I felt that I had to find a deeper meaning because simply calling Gravity an action movie seemed like a disservice to the film. Especially considering this is from the director who brought us Children of Men and the best Harry Potter movie.
Unfortunately, all I could keep thinking was (and, later, saying) "That was awesome."
I'm going to make an odd comparison. Gravity reminds me of a scene near the beginning of The Naked Gun.
Remember the scene in The Naked Gun when Nordberg is shot multiple times? OK, after that happens, he also (1) bumps his head on a pipe, (2) burns his hand on a hot stove, (3) leans against wet paint, (4) has his hand slammed in a closing window, (5) falls face down into icing on a cake, (6) steps in a bear trap, then, finally, (7) falls into the ocean. This is also pretty much the same plot of Gravity. (I swear that I mean this the nicest way possible.)
Let's just say that that the initial destruction to the space shuttle is Nordberg's being shot. From that moment, Sandra Bullock's Ryan Stone jumps from crisis to crisis that might as well be a bear trap and wet paint. In other words: Nothing goes right for this person.
If Stone and Nordberg ever met in real life, they would have a lot in common. (Please, please get the man who played Nordberg out of your head for this following analogy.) I can picture them now: Sitting across from each other at a bar. They share a smile at first, then a knowing look because they are certain that they've both got a story to tell.
Gravity is without a doubt Sandra Bullock's movie and it just might be the most pure performance that she's ever given. Although the idea of certain death lingers throughout Gravity, but it's not heavy handed. In other words: The viewer doesn't have time to get introspective about his or her own mortality because there's just so much going on in front of them. Gravity just might well be the greatest action movie ever made. Certainly, no action movie has ever been made quite in this style before. Gravity is an action movie masterpiece.
Mostly because it feels real. As this is all happening to Ryan Stone, it also feels like it's happening to you. You, the viewer, are in space. And space is terrifying and things are exploding and all you want to do is go home. It's impossible to look away from the screen because you are just as invested as Dr. Ryan Stone. Emotionally, this is now your mission as much as it it hers.
From now on, I'm not going to feel guilty when someone asks me, "What did you think of Gravity,?" and I tell them, "It's awesome." Sheepish, yes -- because I always feel sheepish when using words that can be construed as hyperbole. But Gravity is "awesome." Though, I do promise never to use the word "bitchin'" ever again in my life.
Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.