Wednesday, 8 January 2014


Gravity (2013)

Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney

Directed by Alfonso Cuaron

The film has been making the 2013 Top Ten or even Top Five lists of pretty much every critic - and filmgoer - in the world lately, and as they say, there's no smoke without fire.  It cannot be convincingly argued that "Gravity" is not an amazing, encompassing sensory cinematic experience.  It's a deeply immersive film, and if that sounds pretentious, note that British film critic Mark Kermode, notorious, or celebrated, depending on one's point of view, for his anti-3D opinions, actually advocated seeing this film in 3-D (threed) over 2-D (twod), the first time he has ever crossed the fence (although I'm surprised he didn't for his pal Werner Herzog's "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" a couple of years ago).  It has picked up a number of Golden Globe nominations and will surely go on to do well at the BAFTAs and maybe the Academy Awards too; not that this is a significant indicator of a great film, but sometimes a great film can both make a lot of money, and garner awards validly too.  "Gravity" is a flag-bearer for that philosophy.  It's a decent 90 minute, punchy, not outstaying-its-welcome film with a simple story but amazing, groundbreaking effects (massive cudos to Effects House Framestore) and not one for which the 3-D has been un-necessarily tacked on to raise a few extra dollars, as most are, but because it genuinely enhances the experience.  Once in a while a film comes along which can be claimed to be a genuine game-changer; think "20001: A Space Odyssey", "Star Wars", "Terminator 2: Judgment Day", or "Avatar" and you'll get the idea.

The film is a fairly simple story of an individual in a highly perilous situation trying to escape it, and the breathlessly exciting depiction thereof.  Mission Specialist Ryan Stone played by Sandra Bullock (yes I know, what kind of a name is Ryan for a woman?) who is in orbit above Earth with a specific directive to carry out a mission to make an adjustment on the Hubble space telescope (which, incidentally, just sent back these pictures  She and her crewmates learn whilst up there that a collision between satellites is sending a mountain of space-debris their way and that they are in serious trouble.  They, in particular, are Stone, and Mission Commander Matt Kowalski, played by Clooney.  When it hits, a few "red shirts" but it, their shuttle is destroyed, they are seemingly stranded in space, and have to work together to figure out how to get  back to Earth.  Needless to say, things don't go smoothly...After the initial strike it's anticipated the next will come in 90 minutes, during which a series of tense and not entirely predictable scenes play out.

Bullock is incredible in this film, as hers is the main survival attempt upon which we focus.  There is some resonant imagery throughout as she fights for survival, all the while recalling her lost daughter.  This is why I love this film, because although it's a simple escape-from-peril movie, and a very entertaining one at that, doesn't also hint at themes of love, redemption, and re-birth.  It doesn't matter if one doesn't pick them up, the story can still be very much enjoyed, but if one does, it gives a kick to it all.  Clooney too is fantastic - I'm not sure he's been in a lousy movie since "Batman and Robin" - although comments are welcome.  The initial spacewalk was amazingly well realised, to the extent that celebrity astronaut Chris Hadfield (former Commander of the International Space Station) commented that the depiction of spacewalk in the first section of the film was *exactly as it really is*. He famously posted photographs on Twitter that he had taken from orbit, and a number of times a shot in the film made me think "that looks EXACTLY like what Commander H posted from space".  "Gravity" should certainly make up for realism in what it misses out on in plot points or scientific accuracy!  The initial spacewalk scene was where the 3-D especially comes into its own for me, because as Stone carries out her mission on the telescope, Kowalski, on his final mission indulges in one last spacewalk which sees him pop up in all areas of the screen at random times - the idea he could be 5 feet in front of Ryan or 50 behind is brilliantly depicted in the 3-D print.   This is not to say that the film wouldn't still look amazing in 2-D (I know some folks who have seen it in that format and been similarly blown away) but it's just to say, if you're ever going to see a movie in 3-D see this one and not "The Croods" (although, see "The Croods" in 2-D because it's charming).  You get my drift.

Really, I think this is an exceptional film, which, if you love cinema, you should make an effort to see it on  the big screen.  3-D, 2-D, irrelevant.   Just see it on a big screen whilst it's still playing, as it will be worth it.  Of course, the film will live on forever on Blu-Ray and with some of these 90-inch screens coming in, you may feel no different.  The film is not profound, and has nothing much (arguably) to say about the Human Condition but why should it?  It's an amazingly executed romp through space, thoroughly absorbing, gripping and reliable depiction of an adventure film.

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