Friday, 4 October 2013
FILM REVIEW: GRAVITY
Roadshow/Warner Bros. Films
Alfonso Cuaron's return to filmmaking after a seven-year absence (2006's Children of Men was his last, a film I shamefully admit to not having seen) is proof-positive that the Mexican director wasn't kicking back: Gravity, a disaster thriller set in space, is a feat of technical wonders so precise and exquisite you just know it required maximum thought and planning; achieving the desired result of having you simultaneously asking 'how'd they do that?' as you gasp in awe (and possibly for air).
Opening with an-almost 13-minute take -- a ballet of rotating camera and floating actors, with the Earth as a stunning backdrop -- Cuaron introduces us to the three member team of the Explorer: veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), 2-I-C Shariff (Paul Sharma), and Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), medical engineer and space flight first-timer.
Stone is understandably nervous, a condition both helped and hindered by Kowalski's jocular repartee with mission control in Houston (the voice of Ed Harris, a clever if obvious touch). But her fears are soon realised and superseded when Houston announces Russia has just destroyed one of their obsolete satellites and the subsequent debris is headed their way.
What ensues is a series of action set pieces as Stone and Kowalski (and soon - SPOILER - just Stone) battle both debris and rapidly depleting oxygen reserves in a bid for survival. What becomes a relentless fight for life by Stone is an equally relentless ordeal for the audience as Cuaron throws everything at his heroine and the screen (one of the rare times that 3D has been perfectly deployed in a film).
My major quibble ahead of seeing Gravity was the casting of Bullock. A fine comedic actress, her dramatic roles are few and far between and not entirely convincing (you will not persuade me that she deserved to be nominated for an Oscar for The Blind Side, let alone win the Best Actress award in 2009). But she is perfectly fine here, as a woman out of her depth and fighting for survival whilst also haunted by a family tragedy. Bullock does what the screenplay asks of her, but this is not a performance film (nor is the screenplay, co-penned with Cuaron's son, Jonas, the film's strong point).
Gravity is, however, a technical marvel. Cuaron perfectly combining all the filmmaking elements -- cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), editing (Mark Sanger, along with Cuaron), sound editing, production design (Andy Nicholson), and visual effects -- to produce an almost perfect whole. Even if he doesn't manage to provide quite the emotional connection, or the maximum level of suspense (this reviewer was never on the edge of his seat), the beauty of the imagery Cuaron provides in Gravity is enough to warrant seeing it in a cinema and, yes, in 3D.