Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
with George Clooney & Sandra Bullock
I wasn’t going to review this sort of film (because it’s so heavily covered elsewhere), and we already know it’s going to clean up on technical awards next year. Let’s quote:
At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, Gravity is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise. (Hollywood Reporter)
That’s around the level of criticism so far. I saw it late, which is a shame because the rule is that you need to see it in a cinema, you need to see it in 3D, which is integral to the concept, and you need to see it on the very largest screen you possibly can to get the full impact of the shots of Earth from space. By the time we got to see it, it had been relegated to a smaller screen. I often classify films as “will buy 3D blu-ray’,” “will buy blu-ray,” “will buy the DVD,” “won’t buy.” In fact, at £12.80 each for a Saturday afternoon, the DVD will be cheaper than just one adult at the cinema, and you don’t have to put up with coughing, munching, people leaving to buy more food and coming back, the light from a phone with someone texting (Am at Gravety wth Nobby & Kev. Awsum” perhaps) or a floor covered with sticky ice cream. Though immensely impressed with the film, this is a “not buy” because even with a large TV screen and a good surround system, I am convinced the impact needs overwhelming screen size and indeed sound.
There is a lot to marvel at. The long unbroken beginning shot with no cuts, the twisting and turning of Sandra Bullock in space, the “How did they do that?” throughout. At the start, seen through the helmet, Clooney’s masculine and impressive chin made him look uncomfortably close to Buzz Lightyear.
It is at 90 minutes, exactly the right length to maintain dramatic tension, and the direction demonstrates how most other directors would have made two hours out of it with repetitive crises, and as a result been nowhere near as good. Willing suspension of disbelief is easy with such a huge background of the Earth, and you don’t question how anyone could have done any of it (and they obviously couldn’t).
The first rain of debris destroying the shuttle is silent. Later we have lots of bangs and crashes, though everyone knows that in space, especially with a lone female trapped in a spaceship, no one can hear you scream. It was explained to me that they can hear inside the helmets. OK. I did wonder at the end how Dr Ryan (Sandra Bullock) clad only in wet T-shirt and black knickers will get on stranded on a remote and unknown shore. I wouldn’t plot-spoil, but I think this is the last weekend before the hobbits finally drive it out of the cinemas.
The story is unremittingly sad, especially Dr Ryan’s back story about her daughter. Clooney is suitably heroic while keeping up her spirits. I’m not sure that the storyline quite matches the SFX and sheer beauty of the space shots. There is no relief from the tension, but then there are no other characters to provide relief.