Director: Alfonso Cauron.
Screenplay: Alfonso Cauron, Jonas Cauron.
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney.
Voice of: Ed Harris.
“Clear skies with a chance of satellite debris“.
In 2009, director James Cameron opened the floodgates on the innovation and possibilities of stereoscopic filmmaking when he delivered “Avatar“. Since then, it has been experimented and tinkered with by many filmmakers but now, four years later, Mexican director Alfonso Cauron has set a whole new benchmark.
Fixing a satellite on a seemingly routine spacewalk, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) finds themselves in the midst of a catastrophe when their shuttle is destroyed by flying debris. They lose all contact with home and end up adrift above the Earth’s atmosphere with their oxygen running dangerously low. Somehow, they must find a way to save themselves as they spiral into the blackness of space.
When word broke about the revolutionary use of 3-D in Cauron’s “Gravity“, cinema goers flocked in their numbers to see what all the fuss was about. So much so, that only a mere two weeks after it’s UK release date, I felt very much like the film’s protagonist in that I was getting left behind. Now, having finally seen it with my own eyes, I can personally answer the major question that hangs over it: Is it worth the hype? The answer to that is a resounding, Yes! In terms of a visual and immersive cinematic experience, “Gravity” is simply unparalleled. Cauron and his highly talented cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki have crafted a film of such powerful magnitude and engagement that it will have you in awe at just how they managed to do it. I began the film expecting dazzling visual effects and long uncut shots in the style that Cauron has become accustomed to – his work with Lubezki in “Children of Men” has one of the most impressive tracking shots I’ve ever witnessed and here, they both go about their business in the same manner. The opening 10 minutes alone are entirely one long, uninterrupted, shot and after this I gave up trying to work out how they actually achieved it. It’s such a seamless, technical marvel, that it’s nothing short of mesmerising.
As is often the case with special effects laden movies, though, there tends to be shortcomings elsewhere. Which brings to me answer another overriding question at the film’s core: Does “Gravity” have the requisite depth in terms of it’s story? The answer to that is, sadly, No! It certainly achieves a feeling of claustrophobia and existential dread but it’s story is rather tame in comparison to its sumptuous visuals. It could, understandably, be argued that this isn’t an issue in the grander scale of things, but I was looking for something a little deeper. In fairness, it does attempt the themes of science and technology versus religion with constant reminders hinted at in the shape of Christian and Buddhist iconography. It even touches upon life and loss with symbolic representations of rebirth and being in the womb but ultimately, this is a disaster story, reflecting the human spirit and the insistence of survival against insurmountable odds. It’s here, that the film focuses on the suffering and endurance of Bullock’s character. Many have heaped critical praise on the actress but her casting was another slight issue for me. I’m simply not a fan. I don’t think Bullock has the ability to command the screen for as long as she does. It’s not a poor performance, by any means, but she’s more of a kooky rom-com actress and lacks the range to fully convince. As for Clooney, he’s in it very little, but again, I found the Cloonmeister’s charm and charisma a little distracting and misplaced here, reminding me that it was still a movie I was watching. I wanted to forget and be swept into the film’s endless void but it never allowed me to fully do that, leaving me with the feeling that lesser known actors may have worked better here. Despite, these minor flaws, though, the film itself is absolutely gripping. Cauron builds the tension slowly, letting you bask in the sheer beauty of our planet and the wonderment that lies beyond it, before bombarding you with dizzying and visceral action set-pieces that refuse to let up. Take my advice and see it in all it’s visual splendour at the IMAX where if any film deserved to be seen on such a scale, it’s this one. On that note, I wonder about the replay value of a film like this. Only time will tell wether it will have the same impact when viewed in 2-D or on the small screen.
At the time, I couldn’t quite overlook the slight, aforementioned, issues but on reflection this isn’t a film whose main intention is to appeal intellectually or existentially, this is a film that intends to immerse you in a physical experience and for that it deserves a rapturous applause. There’s really no denying that “Gravity” is an involvement and an adventure like no other and it will leave you, without a doubt in your mind, that you’ve just witnessed the most accomplished use of special-effects in cinematic history.
Trivia: Robert Downey Jr. was originally cast in Clooney’s role but dropped out due to scheduling conflicts.