Saturday, 16 November 2013
Review: Gravity (UK Cert 12A)
Finally, there's a film that's actually worth seeing on the biggest screen you can find. Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity.
There's been a lot of debate about whether this film counts as sci-fi or not. To me, it's not sci-fi exactly. We're not dealing with alien worlds or Death Stars here- we are rooted in a world of science fact. The ISS, Hubble and space exploration are all real. But this isn't a documentary: the story is fictional and, no doubt, some of the effects have been heightened to increase the drama and the tension of the situation. So I'm going to back away from calling this a sci-fi movie and instead call it a psychological drama with thriller elements that's set in space.
Plot-wise, it's quite straightforward- Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are two members of a team of astronauts that are servicing the Hubble space telescope. It's Stone's first trip and Kowalski's last. However, disaster strikes when debris from a defunct Russian satellite damages their craft, leaving them stranded in the vast darkness of space.
Visually this film is absolutely stunning and at times utterly breath-taking. The first twelve minutes is an unbroken shot, focusing on Earth and the vastness of space and then introducing the Explorer and its crew. The scenes of destruction and the impression given of zero gravity, with things like tears and sparks floating, just look amazing. Cuaron, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber pull out all the stops to make this film look sublime.
Sandra Bullock's performance is sterling for the most part, with a few shaky script choices responsible for her dips away from greatness. Misfortune piles on misfortune for Stone and I found myself hoping she would catch a break at some point. She carries the film emotionally, mentally and physically and its a bravura turn from her (for the most part). Clooney kind of phones it in- playing a suave, charismatic raconteur is hardly a stretch- but it's fun and there's a particularly poignant scene between Clooney and Bullock about half an hour in that will bring a lump to the throat.
That's not to say that the film is perfect: some of the character points are a bit cliched, there's an ill-advised hallucination scene, plus some maudlin stuff about Stone's daughter which shone through as blatant emotional manipulation. There's also one particularly bizarre scene involving barking like a dog which really brought me out of the palpably tense mood created up to that point. I also wasn't particularly sold on one particular aspect of the ending but think I may have missed something in the lead-up to it which would explain Stone's actions, so it seems disingenuous to mark it down just on that.
There's a lot to like about this film and I admire the ambition and the end result. There are just a few niggles that stop this being truly great for me, and that's a shame. But if you are going to watch this, do try and see this on a cinema screen- you will appreciate the visual spectacle all the more.
Review: 4 out of 5