The film of the year?
Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Major Players: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Out of five? 4.5
Sifting the truth from the hype surrounding a major film launch can be an art in its own right. The couple behind me as I left the screening of Gravity possibly hadn’t mastered it yet. Both were less than impressed. He complained the film had been over-hyped, while she declared herself underwhelmed. You’d have thought we’d seen different movies …….
True, the industry expectations were such that other film distributors avoided launching their movies during the same week. Only two documentaries – good ones, it has to be said – were released, so Gravity had little competition at the box office. But the hype didn’t all come from Warner Brothers’ PR machine. Its screening at the London Film Festival produced a flurry of enthusiastic tweets. Were they right?
For me, yes, they were. Since the film’s release, most of the superlatives have been used up, so reviewers are simply calling it the film of the year. That might be overstating things. But it is, without doubt, the most innovative film of the year.
The story is straightforward. On a routine mission in outer space, a bombardment of space debris destroys a shuttle, leaving just two astronauts (Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) to face the challenge of staying alive in the most hostile of environments. Stone (Bullock) and Kowalski (Clooney) are polar opposites. He loves being in space, she hates it: he’s a highly experienced astronaut on his last mission, she’s on her first one. But, as the story continues, we find that her real reason for disliking being in space is that she’s given up on life itself since the death of her young daughter.
Essentially, though, the story plays second fiddle to the visuals which are, at times, truly spectacular. Outer space has a beauty all of its own – even that never ending darkness full of stars – and, viewed from above, Earth is entrancing. You can understand why Kowalski is more than happy to float around, just enjoying the view.
Gravity is more than just a film. It’s an experience. And there aren’t many movies that can be described that way. There are even fewer that have clearly been made with 3-D in mind, and this is most definitely one of them. So often, 3-D is tacked on so that scenes look like they were shot in on stage back in the 50s, with motion in the background. Here, it’s an integral part of the film and not only belongs in it, but enhances the technical wizardry.
Despite the impression given by the trailer and most of the clips released by Warner Brothers, not all of the film takes place outside the space craft. And the interior scenes are equally impressive but in a different way, with fire and floating objects just some of the challenges faced by Stone as she swims along weightlessly. Some of the most impressive sequences come when we are viewing events through Stone’s eyes – literally: the 3-D allows us to be on her side of the visor, looking at all the data she would see all the time.
It’s a rollercoaster ride, full of danger and agonising suspense. The tension is such that, come the end, you breathe a massive sigh of relief and remove what nails you have left from the arm of your seat.
So is it the film of the year? As I said at the beginning, it’s certainly the most innovative. But it depends on what you mean by film of the year. To me, it would mean that it was outstanding in all categories – acting, direction, cinematography, the lot. Gravity fits in the bill in many instances, but not quite all. It comes at the end and I’ll leave you to decide for yourself if and when you see it.
And, yes, you have read correctly. Despite my reservations about 3-D, I did see it in that format – and that’s how it should be seen. Presumably, there’ll be a DVD at some stage. How a small screen in 2-D will compare with the cinema version remains very much to be seen.