Sunday, 24 November 2013

Gravity




Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and mission specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are commanding a spacewalk to service the Hubble Telescope when Mission Control warns them of a Russian missile strike on a distant space station. When the debris causes a chain reaction, the pair are called to abort mission, but the debris arrives sooner than expected and Kowalski & Stone are thrown into the depths of space. With oxygen running out, and the debris expected to come back around every 90 minutes, the only advice they can give each other is "don't let go".

A bit of history for you, now. Approximately five years ago, my Mum met a customer at work who was working at a local film studio producing a film that involved "George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in space". Knowing my film-fanaticism, my Mum came home and told me about this production. "Seems interesting", I thought. Then, nothing. For four years, no posters, no trailers, nothing. Earlier this year, the first trailer for Gravity aired. I was immediately drawn to this film, and eagerly anticipated its release. After a five year wait, I have now seen Gravity. And what a film it is.

There is so much going for Gravity, the only real simile I can think of is that my list of praise for this film is as endless as the concept of space itself. The visual effects, Alfonso Cuarón's direction, Bullock's performance, the 3D, the cinematography, the scientific accuracy. Gravity has it all. At a lean 90 minutes, it pretty much flies by. But with the nature of the film, that is sort of needed. Any longer and I think I would have passed it; it is that tense. From beginning to end, Gravity is packed with tension, terror and excitement, and it would not have worked any other way.

This is possibly Bullock's best performance to date. As newbie astronaut Ryan Stone, she delivers the fear and panic necessary, but, more importantly, the emotion and soul behind her character. The scene in which she talks about her daughter brought a tear to my eye. The power behind her performance is sure to grant her a second Oscar nomination. When carrying a film like she does here, spending a lot of time alone, talking aloud to yourself is something a character needs to do to keep the audience interested. Often it can feel forced and unnatural, but Bullock does this with ease. Even when simply muttering small commands at herself, we hang on her every word. I simply can't imagine anyone else doing that.

Where Gravity truly excels, though, is the photography, cinematography and visual effects. Not one scene of this film was shot in zero-gravity; the technicalities behind it are extraordinary. Scenes in which Stone spins backwards, unable to stop, with Earth occasionally flying through the frame behind her are exhilarating, and just a reminder of what is possible with special effects nowadays. This is also the best use of 3D I've seen thus far. During some of the more explosive sequences, screws and bolts fly at the audience, making you flinch almost as much as the characters actually in the film. It also serves as a method of deepening the frame. Even shots inside space stations have this incredible depth, that constantly reminds you how lost Stone actually is. Again, Oscar nods for cinematography and visual effects are pretty likely.

One aspect of Gravity that I feel isn't getting enough praise is its use of sound. The soundtrack alone is powerful enough to draw almost anyone to the film, but it's the sound effects and the sound mixing that shine through here. For example, when hatches are opened and oxygen drains out of a docking station, Gravity goes silent. We are put in the same situation as these characters; we hear what they hear. Most films go solely for the visuals, but Gravity uses sound just as much, and to an astonishing effect. During the sequence at the beginning of the film, where the Hubble Telescope is hit by the debris, we don't hear the explosions. Normally this would appear odd, but here it just works. It wouldn't surprise me if there are few Oscar nominations in this department, too.

Simply put, Gravity is a film that needs to be originally viewed in a cinema, on a large screen, with surround sound, in 3D. The effect this has is incredible. It is unlike anything I've experienced with a film before. Bullock and Clooney carry this film with ease, and the special effects just add to the environment we watch them in. However, the majority of this lies with Cuarón. His direction here is masterful. Not having a single cut for the first fifteen minutes was a stroke of genius, and his ideas just keep on flowing. This film will be heavily rewarded come Oscar season in February. Gravity is the film of the year, and it will go down in history as one of the best science fiction films ever created. Its tagline simply states "Don't Let Go". Over this 90 minutes, you won't.

To Summarise: With stunning visual effects, masterful direction, strong performances and exceptional cinematography, "Gravity" is a truly powerful example of what is possible with modern cinema.


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