Dir: Alfonso Cuarón
After missing the chance to see this in my local cinema on release, I had to travel pretty far to catch a final screening with full 3D in a London multiplex… I know it’s not as far as space, but still!
A small group of astronauts, primarily experienced Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and first-timer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), are making adjustments to the Hubble telescope, when they are radioed to immediately abandon their mission as a field of space debris is heading towards them, but unable to get clear in time, Stone and Kowalski are left stranded in space.
Although it may be considered ‘Science Fiction’, to the average viewer like myself who is unaware of the reported scientific inaccuracies, there’s no apparent reason why this couldn’t easily be fact! I heard an interview with the director Alfonso Cuarón, he explained how he and his son approached writing the screenplay, with a simple linear narrative, nothing complicated or distracting, it plays out in essentially real-time, and this simplicity works incredibly well to draw the audience in.
There’s been a lot of criticism that despite the ground-breaking visual effects, the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired. I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree. Firstly the Cuaróns aren’t first-language English speakers, and their writing reflects a necessity and desire to keep things simple and clear for the audience to follow. This regular exposition, while it may seem unnecessary for the segment of the audience who are au-fait with space science, helps to keep the rest of the audience up to speed and along for the ride.
A ride it certainly is, with stunning visuals, incredible effects, and without doubt the most beneficial use of 3D cinema I have seen yet! The 3D works here, partly because of the setting, with the huge distances involved between the objects in space and even more so with the Earth. The other reason for 3D being so important to this film is that it’s all about one-off spectacle, this isn’t going to be a franchise, it wasn’t designed for TV, this is a film that was made for the cinema screen and the bigger the better with breathtaking visuals, immersive sound, and a brilliantly restrained running time. New equipment and techniques were invented and developed to make the film, and make it a dead cert to win the Oscars in that category, with the film likely to triumph in other fields also.
Rarely does a film have such a small cast as this, Stone and Kowalski do have colleagues in space but they are more heard than seen. Their mission control contact is the familiar voice of Ed Harris, previously doing a similar job in ‘Apollo 13’, and there are other voices in the form of radio contact and music, but these are unseen characters, keeping the focus very much on the astronauts and especially Bullock’s character Ryan Stone. Though back-story is touched on and added to give the characters more depth, it is inserted in moments of comparative calm and quiet so that the pieces of action are unencumbered by anything other than the issues at hand which are hugely dramatic.
Co-writer and directors son Jonas Cuarón also made a short film as a lovely companion piece which adds quite a lot to the film, so click on this link for Aningaaq but only if you have seen Gravity first as it does contain some spoilers. Or, if you’ve seen the film and want a chuckle, watch the ‘Honest Trailers’ take on it here!
Described by James Cameron as ‘the best space film ever made’, it far exceeds ‘Avatar’ as a ‘must-see’ film, I traveled far to see it properly and it was well worth it, but with the DVD and Blu-Ray release this month you can get hold of it far closer to home!