Monday 11 November 2013

Review: Gravity

Year: 2013
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Screenplay: Alfonso Cuaron, Jonas Cuaron
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

Synopsis is here:

What I write here is information you can take or leave. My reviews are not so much about “telling people what to watch”: a belief which that many people feel about the idea of reviewing and criticism.  No, I write to merely state a personal view on whether or not a film works on me based on my own values, prejudices and otherwise. If one shares similar attitudes, enjoys and agrees with me, that’s the humble reward for my so called work.

I mention this because I know not everyone will feel like I did about Gravity, but that's fine. I’m so often on an island when it comes to my film taste I’ve set up my own coconut selling store.  But I’m still naive to think that honesty is key and I wholeheartedly believe that Gravity is one of the most moving and life-affirming films I have ever witnessed.  Beyond the films slight narrative and unsurprising plot elements is a film that is simply breathtaking in its execution.

Gravity not only squeezes tension out of each minute of its runtime, giving full weight to the hostile environment these characters inhabit and displaying their fragility, but the film, like others of Cuaron’s, grounds the film with a heart that pulsates it’s humanity on the screen. Cuaron notes his intentions with small visual cues (note the religious artefacts set up almost like a gag), but the ground work is done here by Sandra Bullock.  An actress whom I’ve never really given my full attention (although I love her work in Demolition Man), blind sides us with her powerfully expressive display. She has been formidable in her more expected roles, but here she has such forcefulness in her physical performance we realise that despite the thinness of character on the page, we understand her fears ad emotions by even just the slightness of gesture. Clooney’s work is mostly one of a voice of reason. Bullock not only does all the heavily lifting but does so with such astounding ease, it’s made me realise just how much I’ve been missing from her previous works.

With so many films asking inviting us to watch heroes save the world, what makes Gravity stand out is its wish to show somebody save themselves. The film roams in the same realms of the likes of Buried and Cast Away, but Gravity’s setting, performance and direction invigorates the dynamic. We see Earth, our planet; hovering in the distance in such a way that you feel you could reach out to it. Yet it’s clearly so far away that it seems to taunt our characters, mocking our frailty. When we see what may happen to Bullock’s Ryan, we get the very real feeling of the risks she must take and the enormous effort she will need in order to survive. I watched the film in 3D and marvelled at how the filmmakers use it to illustrate the depth and dimension of the infinite. This is the first time that I did not muck around with the glasses. I found myself too enthralled with the film and what I felt it was saying. Matt Zoller Seitz states the film evoked the imagery of The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928), I was reminded of the imagery of Bergman with close up’s that staring into the void. Searching for meaning within a seemingly hopless existance I found myself so into the headspace of Ryan, I asked the same questions that she asks herself. Unlike many other films of its type I’m not looking at the mechanics, scientific inaccuracies aside, this feels organic. When films get like this, we been to fret for the character in a unique way. We don’t called the actors name, we call out for the character themselves. I muttered to myself at least three times.

This was the effect Gravity had on me. My popcorn sat uneaten and my fizzy pop was left, going flat.  I created new creases on the inside of my jeans at each new set piece.  There are moments of humour in Gravity but often I didn't laugh. I was trying to regulate my breathing. Terror has never been so alluring, so beautiful and yet by the end I found myself moved by the experience. Its technical prowess is there for all to see (many have asked how did they achieve what they did) but beyond that is a simply tale of morality that shook me to the core. This year has been a tough one for me and took these 90 minutes to reinstall a faith in me that has been missing for quite a while. We all find ourselves staring into the blackness, Gravity confronted our (read: my) fears in a way only a few other films have. As I said before, not everyone is going to feel the same way about Gravity and that’s fine. I fully get if you came here for a normal film review and came across ponderous nonsense. You can take or leave the information. I will say that after the film finished I walked home I did so in silence. I refrained from jamming my headphones in my ears. The heavens opened and I listened to the patter of the rain on the ground as I walked. During the 30 minute journey I didn't mind getting wet. I was just happy to be alive.