2013, Alfonso Cuaron - in 3-D
(countdown to the World's End, day 5)
As late as I am to writing this review of Gravity (which I believe I'm 3 weeks removed from viewing) I was even later to getting aboard the Gravity train. I had no doubt from my previous experiences with Cuaron movies, whether it be Children of Men or Y Tu Mamá También or Prisoner of Azkaban that I was in for a great experience. Word of mouth multiplied that perception exponentially. It just took me a very very very long time to find the time to see the picture. Thankfully it's ridiculously successful run carried deep into November, and surprisingly only in 3-D.
I had heard that the 3-D in this movie was spectacular. I'm an established opponent of 3-D, and yet with this and Pacific Rim (and even Dredd, which I saw in 2-D yet could easily see how the 3-D would have enhanced the experience) I'm softening my stance. 3-D should never be essential to a picture, and I've yet to see one where it is, but at the same time if it's going to be used, the element of depth should truly be explored. Gravity uses this like no other film before it.
Early on in the film Sandra Bullock's Ryan Stone is tossed from a space structure (was it a telescope?) when debris orbiting the planet collided with them. She's tossed outwards, towards the Earth...away... parallel...? We don't know. Spacial reasoning is very difficult when surrounded by so much blackness. She's spiralling, spinning with no gravity to help her right herself. There's no traction in space, we become all to keenly aware. Dizzied (and the POV camera allows us to share in her dizziness...thanks Cuaron, this wasn't helping my vertigo any) she's attempts to regain some sense of composure as George Clooney's space walking Matt Kowalski needs to locate her for a rescue. At one point we're shown the figure of stone as she moves outwards into the darkness of space... only it's not dark, specks of light in 3-D show us the same dimensionality of space we get from the ground... and the figure is pretty much black, only visible as she interrupts the light of the stars. It's brilliant in 3-D, absolutely stunning.
Scant minutes into the film, Gravity sends us on a gripping journey alongside Ryan Stone as she tries to survive in space, her oxygen depleting, and the threat of the debris making another pass in orbit. There's space stations to venture between, capsules to ride in, and all sorts of tasks that need to be performed, all in the name of survival. It's truly relentless, and it's a definite experience.
At the same time, it's an utterly preposterous one, and how much you like Gravity will depend on your willingness to suspend disbelief. Early on I had to remind myself that it's not a representation of a real situation, or even a believable one, that it's only a movie, and with that I relaxed my critical eye. I wouldn't have been able to make it through the fire extinguisher sequence without it (a similar activity my wife reminded me we had seen recently performed by Kid Flash in the Young Justice cartoon).
Bullock was a great choice for the role. She's a naturally likeable actress who is usually sidled with either hammy or annoying roles. Here she gets to be brave and vulnerable and intelligent and inspiring all at once. She makes some pretty great choices in her physicality, particularly at the end.
Cuaron for his part draws out inspiration from all over. Naturally 2001 plays inspiration, while so does Ray Bradbury's Kaleidescope, and I bet sci-fi fans will likely spend a lot of time pulling out other nuggets of influence (... Cameron Esposito on the Wham Bam Pow podcast pointed out that the end sequence was a homage to Planet of the Apes).
This isn't necessarily a great story, but it is a pretty incredible experience. After leaving the theatre I felt a little unsatisfied, but the further I get away from it, the more I want to see it again.