Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Written by: Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron
Running Time: 91 mins
Release date: 8th November 2013
Where do I start? I guess I should start by saying that this is the best film of the year. Seriously. It is a technical triumph as well as being the most heart-pounding, intense and immersive movie experience I have ever had as well as including a star in the role of her career and a story so simple yet utterly credible and totally compelling. Yes, I guess you could say I liked this film a lot.
Dr Ryan Stone is a former nurse now working for NASA, in the middle of space, on a crippled satellite while shuttle commander Matt Kowlaski, on his last mission before he retires, watches on with his jet pack and dreams of breaking the space walking record. Then the unthinkable occurs. The mission has to be abandoned as debris from an Russian satellite completely destroyed the shuttle, propelling Dr Stone into space, alone and abandoned and with no real hope of surviving.
I am going to leave the plot synopsis there, as the one thing you should know about Gravity is the least you know about the plot, the better. It should be a surprise to you, as it was to me, so you can enjoy the elegance of this year’s most beautifully shot film, a film that puts you into space, literally.
Director Alfonso Cuaron has created a modern masterpiece, that is both elegant and intense. Surrounding himself with some of the best technical minds in cinema (so a mostly British teams then), we are spinning, flying and floating in space. As the main characters fight for survival, never fearing of falling, more of floating away, we are dragged into the action, helped by superb cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki. A sequence in which we are watching an out-of-control Dr Stone from afar soon getting closer and closer until we end up inside her helmet looking out is a work of art and the kind of immersion that this film offers.
The effects are extraordinary too, from the majestic nature of the planet Earth that is below our helpless characters, to the space stations exploding and throwing out debris, captured in the best 3D I have ever seen. Yes, that’s right, I finally have found a 3D film that uses the format to its best potential. In one scene, I was ducking and moving out-of-the-way of large pieces of space junk that comes hurling at the screen.
Then there’s the sound. Yes, even the sound is incredible. The film starts with a conversation that is barely audible as we look upon out planet from afar. As a small dot appears on the screen, the conversation builds and eventually we find that it is Matt Kowlaski talking to mission control. It’s a high point in the excellent sound editing that then leads to an array of explosions and deep, deep silences that you really do hear. I think it will be hard to find a better film to show the power of sound. The materialistic use of music helps to evoke emotion and tension too. Everything works.
Cuaron’s script, co-written with his son, Jonas, is poetic, realistic and full of themes from life, death, mortality, sibling relationship and symbolic of birth. There are never hammered home but are implied quite subtly that they never intrude with the tension of the film or the fact that this is dealing with a fight for survival.
Finally the performances from the two leads. George Clooney is one of my favourite Hollywood actors and he sits perfectly as the likeable commander, Matt Kowlaski. His performance, while not particularly showy, is a nice compliment to the main focus of the film, Sandra Bullock. This is, by far, her best performance to date. As the tough yet vulnerable Dr Stone, you feel for her, you live through her experience and you are completely with her throughout. It is a tour de force and if Cate Blanchett wasn’t around with her performance in Blue Jasmine, I would have said this was another Oscar worthy performance from Ms Bullock. It is full of depth and emotion and show just how good she really is, given the right part and the right material.
I cannot rave about Gravity enough. It has put my faith back into blockbuster cinema again (this has been a very lacklustre year for the big picture) even if it is a fairly small film. For the very short running time of 90 minutes, you are in space with Ms Bullock and by the end you are shaking, not only by the intensity of the story but the wonderment of the film as a whole. The best piece of science fiction since Duncan Jones’s Moon, this is the most complete film of the year and I would think you will be hard to find a better picture this year. An absolute 100% triumph.