Gravity – or none for that Matter…
I tried to avoid spoilers in this review, but when talking about the plot towards the end, I do outline most events in the film.
I can confidently say that going to see Gravity gave me the best cinematic experience I’ve had in a long time – probably since the Harry Potter phase (which, coincidentally, Alfonso Cuaron was involved in along with British producer David Heyman).
By this, I don’t mean that it is up there with the modern classics, but not even the greatest anti-Sci-Fi-er can deny that it is hugely impressive and visually powerful. Cuaron’s creation was, without a doubt, made for the big screen.
The story follows a medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), with a team of astronauts, including Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) on her first mission in space. When they receive reports of a satellite hit by a Russian missile, things do not go according to plan, with flying debris leaving the astronauts shuttle-less and adrift in space. Will Stone be able to find her way back to earth with limited knowledge and experience and will she find the strength to keep trying when luck seems to be running out…
I am absolutely in love with the way that Cuaron and designers constructed the image of Gravity. The lack of futuristic over-technical machinery, explosions, strange planets and creatures opened this film to a wider audience. The focus on simplicities such as the beauty of Earth and the calm and peace of space gave the film a new dimension which we have had not much experience with in previous Sci-Fi blockbusters. Nonetheless, it remains action-packed and thrilling throughout – so don’t be disheartened Trekkies.
The effects were achieved with grace – both realistic and powerful, creating breathtakingly beautiful images which combined with the imaginative use of cinematography, looked magnificent on the cinema screen. Moments such as the Point of View shots from behind the glass of the helmet, and the selective focus of the tear floating towards the camera, were very artistically effective. The 3D enhances this further, giving a dynamic feel to the viewing experience – and not just watching the whole audience flinching in unison at the flying debris. We find ourselves sucked into a silent and weightless world, and almost feel as if we too are adrift into this beautiful perception of space.
A perfect accompaniment to the vastness of space created by the images was the magnificent use of sound to give a surreal feeling, resembling that of being underwater and hearing those deep powerful booms and echos. The sound adds to the feeling of endless space and tranquility as well as later the isolation and thrill as the action begins to unfold. An astonishing soundtrack by Steven Price, creating an almost overwhelming feeling as the music washes over you.
Cuaron himself wrote, directed and co-edited Gravity, perhaps making his ‘Best Director’ BAFTA well deserved considering the amount of work he put in. It has been said that Cuaron always wanted to be an astronaut as well as a filmmaker and this work seemed to be something of a huge importance to him. Although originally from Mexico, Cuaron has written and directed many British films including Children of Men (2006) and directed Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (that’s number three if you’re not familiar). An impressive portfolio, however I am not entirely sure how Gravity managed to claim the ‘Outstanding British Film’ BAFTA with a Mexican director, Hollywood actors, Mexican cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and with a budget of $100 million which is unheard of in terms of British funding. Yet, it must have just scraped the barrel, being filmed in Britain with a part-British crew and involving British production company, Heyday films (owned by David Heyman himself).
As for the acting – well I wasn’t bowing down to the screen, shouting ‘Oscar! Oscar!’, nevertheless it was a strong performance from Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. We must also take into account how Bullock acted almost the entire 90 minutes alone, with minimal dialogue (aside from all that loud breathing)… not to mention the difficulty acting whilst using a green screen. Just a thought – was Sandra Bullock in those tiny panties a reference to Alien, by any chance?
Unfortunately, I do feel that the film lacked a little in narrative content, plot and emotional depth. I understand that it must have been difficult to write for – one and a half hours in space, make it exciting, but keep it simple and play down the Sci-Fi. For me, the characters were strong and the character development of Stone was completely successful. The idea of the death of her daughter was a great addition to the story, however it didn’t quite do enough – it felt like it was just thrown in and had no real substance. The ‘I’m going to fight for you speech’ was just a little cliché and didn’t bring out the hankies. I felt we needed to see it really come down hard on Stone that she was alone, and she was possibly going to die – there were moments which were step towards this, but we needed to see more emotionally. I guess what I’m trying to say is that I wanted a Tom Hank’s ‘Wilson!’ moment to really give a climax. My other criticism is that the plot was based on a chain of dramatic events – one problem after the other. This works well if each event is cleverly linked with or caused by others, but in this case they were unrelated, therefore becoming unrealistic. So, first we had the shrapnel, and then running out of oxygen, and then running out of fuel, and then difficulty finding a way into the space station, and then a fire in the space station, and then not knowing how to drive the space station, and then it becomes stuck in something like a parachute, and then it has no fuel, and then she deprives herself of the oxygen, and then it lands in water… and then, and then, and then. Do you see what I mean? Of course, I am exaggerating slightly in order to outline my point, but there were weaknesses in the plot that I felt stole from the visual beauty slightly.
Overall, this film is an experience in itself and an incredible contribution to modern cinema, particularly with those spectacular effects. However, I can’t help but worry that on a TV screen at home, we won’t be drawn in to the same extent and therefore the films greatest strengths will be lost.
Having said this, there is no doubt that this piece was extremely impressive, with a unique style displayed perfectly in everything from the music to the advertising posters. Totally Oscar-worthy and gains a 4 STARS from me.
Do you agree? Or perhaps you think I am completely out of order? I’d love to know what you think.