Action/Adventure / Films / Science Fiction / Thriller

Gravity

Alfonso Cuarón is one of the world’s greatest filmmakers. His back-catalogue is impressive – from the emotional, tragedic-comedy road trip of Y Tu Mamá Tambiénto the blinding and powerful Children of Men, even to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, the most creative and most-accomplished movie in the Potter franchise. Then there’s been interesting literary adaptations like Great Expectations and critically acclaimed early works like A Little Princess. Cuarón is a director who with a relatively small filmography has managed to make a huge mark on the industry. Like Kubrick, Cuarón works in different genres but brings to each of his movies a great level of technical expertise – his movies are famed for their long and semi-impossible tracking shots, their stunning sense of spectacle, but also for their taunt emotional cores. Which brings us to his latest movie – tight space thriller Gravity. A bold and stunning cinematic rollercoaster ride, Gravity is one of the most impressive films of the year, and one which is sure to be remembered for years to come.gravity The film’s plot is simple – astronauts on the space shuttle Explorer are on a space walk serving a Hubble telescope when debris hits, leaving them stranded in space. Everyone dies but two of the crew – mission specialist Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and mission commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) – and the two must work together against gargantuan odds – depleting oxygen supplies, damaged equipment and the reoccurring threat of orbiting space debris (which circles the Earth every 90 minutes) in order to try and find a way back to their home planet.gravityThe film begins with a series of title cards stating the impossibility of life in space. Never before has space seemed so terrifying – Cuarón crafts a world above the planet with remarkable realism; this is a hostile, empty place, in which survival is nearly impossible. The audience are constantly on the edge of their seats, gasping everytime Dr Stone grasps for something to hold onto. Gravity is an extremely tense movie – from the opening foreboding scene, the movie never lets up, and it keeps the audience in a near constant state of agitated tension throughout its entire running time. Think of the scene in 2001 where HAL-9000 locks Dave out – now imagine that lasting for an hour and a half. It’s a hopeless, and very suspenseful piece of filmmaking, and whilst it never reaches the spiritual heights of 2001 and has considerably less to say, Gravity serves as a near perfect level of thriller cinema.gravity8At times, the suspense is almost unbearable, and Cuarón ratchets up the tension constantly; everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. Oxygen is running low; the threat of returning debris generates a permanent and reoccurring timer, and the zero gravity setting means the slightest slip could lead to death. Everytime Dr Stone reaches semi-salvation – say the inside of a half-ruined space station – some new threat will raise itself – a lack of fuel, a fire. This is the gritty, cold and harsh reality of space travel, and though some have stated that the space featured here is unrealistic, it doesn’t really matter. The movie is so utterly absorbing that suspension of disbelief is readily granted. The movie balances between extreme agoraphobic space and tight, almost painful claustrophobia, and has much more in common with Alien than it does with Star Trek. As an exercise in sheer suspense, this is a masterpiece, and never before has space seemed so desolate and unforgiving on film. gravity4Cuarón balances his sense of impending doom with an awareness that space, in its expansive and all-encompassing way, is actually quite beautiful. We’re treated to gorgeous shots of the Earth, which is always frustratingly visible, so close but so far. Shots of Northern Lights dancing across the planet are a particular highlight. Gravity is a beautiful movie to simply look at – from the wide, eternally endless shots of the Earth to the tight and squashed space station compartments, the cinematography throughout – from veteran Emmanuel Lubezki – is utterly stunning, and more than worthy of an Oscar win. As with Children of Men, Cuarón frames his movie with extremely long tracking shots – the opening sequence in particular seems to last a very long time with no clear cuts – and has the added benefit of zero gravity to play with; the camera rolls around the action, which comes on suddenly, with a great sense of spectacle. The camera feels like its own entity, and the only times you’re aware is there is when a shot is simple so impressively constructed that you have to step back and think to yourself, how was that even possible? GRAVITYShots of space stations being destroyed by debris whilst astronauts desperately cling to things to hold onto are striking, the sort of shots which restore all faith in the inventiveness of cinema. It’s difficult to even comprehend how these shots were achieved; a mix of live action and computer animation which combine to create a constantly moving, threatening, and ultimately, very believable world. The scene involving a tangled parachute is a real highlight, and a technical marvel. It’s a movie which demands to be seen on the big screen, and like Avatar and Life of Pi, the 3D actually helps with the immersion; Gravity is the sort of movie you let swallow you, and it’s so absorbing. Despite the long shots, the running time is actually quite brisk (about an hour and a half) which is just enough time to keep up the extreme levels of tension without the audience crumbling under pressure.gravity7For its all vast and action-packed spectacle, Gravity possesses a great deal of heart. A lot of this comes from Sandra Bullock. Not usually considered a great actress, Bullock delivers a powerhouse performance here – she’s an everywoman, the window for the audience, and it’s very easy to relate to her. She grounds us in a movie with no ground. Bullock goes through the motions, from fear and terror to hope, resilience and at times, near complete emotional breakdown. It’s her movie, and Cuarón is wise to never let her out of our sights. We’re constantly with her – at times the camera falls beneath her visor, or functions entirely from her POV. Dr Stone is given a motivating back-story relating to a child which helps flesh her out as something more than just an audience vehicle too. We grow to care for Dr Stone, and root for her, which lands Gravity as a survival piece – a stunning love-letter to the strength of human will. George Clooney, for his short screentime, is a calming and fatherly figure in the centre, and we feel in control when he’s around, which of course, isn’t that often. For the most part, this is Bullock’s feature, and she’s completely alone.gravity6This is a stunning movie – an absolute visual feast, a taunt tense thriller, and at times, a powerful character piece. There’s something for everyone here and as a sheer exercise in filmmaking, Gravity is a stunning and powerful work. It’s one of the best space movies ever made, and one which demands to be seen on the biggest screen possible. A rare movie which proves that cinema has still got something new to offer.

5/5

Advertisements

3 thoughts on “Gravity

  1. Pingback: Gravity (Short View) – Alfonso Cuarón | A World Of Film

  2. Pingback: Ranking the Harry Potter Movies: From Worst to Best | Some Films and Stuff

  3. Pingback: Are the Oscars a Joke? | Some Films and Stuff

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s