Winner of 2014 Oscar for Best Picture!
Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Director: Alfonso Cuarôn
Studio: Warner Brothers [2/25/14] 3D & 2D Blu-ray, UV digital copy, DVD copy
Video: 3D and 2D versions, 2.4:1 anamorphic/enhanced 1080p for 16:9
Audio: English DTS-HD Master Audio, English 5.1 Dolby Digital, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
Extras: Behind the Scenes; Shot Breakdowns; Documentary: Collision Point; Aningaag – short film by Jonas Curarôn
Length: 91 minutes
Rating: *****

Gravity has earned the superlatives given it during the theatrical release last year. This British-American co-production, directed by Alfonso Cuarôn, has ten Academy Award nominations, and every one seems justified.

The story involves two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) stranded outside their Space Shuttle after it is destroyed by debris from a Russian satellite. From the first few minutes the film is a thrilling simulation of what it must be like to be floating in space. Physical sets, elaborate CGI and and cutting-edge lighting make the illusion complete. I won’t go over the plot details, because if you haven’t seen the movie, you need to approach it from a fresh perspective.

Technically, the film is as groundbreaking as 2001 – A Space Odyssey was back in the sixties. The Blu-ray captures the theatrical look of the film, and while the 2D version is just fine, the 3D version is truly spectacular. While it’s oft-repeated that 3D is dead, it was the 3D version that brought people into the theaters, and the 3D on the Blu-ray is every bit as compelling, even on a smaller screen. I watched the movie on an 88-inch projection screen fed by an Epson 3020, and I also watched on my 46-inch Samsung. It looked great both ways.

Since we are all about audio here, let me talk a bit about how the movie sounds. In the best theaters, the film was a 7.1 sound mix. For reasons that escape me the film is DTS-HD Master audio in 5.1 (Because standard 7.1 is silly…Ed.]  It still sounds great, and in my home the movie sounded much better than in the theater I went to. As Sandra Bullock spins out of control, the sound of Clooney on the radio spins around the room. The creaking of the ISS and the Chinese spaceship are jarring and realistic. The Oscar-nominated sound is as good as I have heard. The music by composer Steven Price, rather than being locked up front with added ambiance in the rear, is highly directional, panning in some scenes from front to back to match the on screen action. It’s a terrific score.

Gravity doesn’t have the intellectual heft of 2001. I think the only film that came close over the last several decades was Solaris with Clooney cast again as an astronaut. However, as an example of pure, visceral cinema, Gravity is one terrific film. You don’t have to be a science fiction fan to be drawn into this film. Gravity is pretty well-grounded in accurate physics. It takes some liberties for the drama, but it is carefully crafted and never insults the audience.

The Blu ray looks great, with deep blacks, no signs of encoding defects, and the 3D image is bright and realistic.  There are 3 hours of extras on this disc, including details on the technical aspects, the casting, and the sheer physicality demanded of the actors.

It’s hard to over-praise Gravity. It doesn’t suffer from being seen in the home, although the bigger your screen the greater the impact. Gravity does what many of the best movies do: gives you experiences you could not have on your own, and leaves you with a sense of wonder and humbleness.

—Mel Martin