12 years a slave, 3D, alfonso cuaron, cast away, children of men, emmanuel lubezki, george clooney, gravity, hubbell space telescope, hugo, international space station, jonas cuaron, martin scorsese, sandra bullock, terrence malick, the counselor, tiangong, tom hanks, tree of life
I don’t know that I can add much to the discussion that is going on about Alfonso Cuarón‘s Gravity, the #1 film at the box office the past two weeks, but I would feel remiss if I didn’t at least add to the chorus. I finally caught the film on Saturday and ponied up the extra $3.75 for the 3D. If this was any old filmmaker, I doubt I would have done this, but I was so enamored with Cuarón‘s last project, Children of Men, which I would argue is was of the best films of this millennium, that I knew it would be worth it. I wasn’t wrong.
The premise of this film is pretty simple – Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is in space with flight commander Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) to upgrade the Hubbell Space Telescope with a prototype something or other. Obviously, a pretty big deal since the Hubbell is the hottest things since sunburn with regards to our ability to view objects in space millions of light years away from Earth. As Kowalski, who incidentally is on his last mission in space, putters around in his jetpack as Stone does her thing, they get a distressed call from Mission Control in Houston that a explosion from a Russian rocket taking out one of their own satellites has caused a chain reaction with other satellites and the debris is headed their way. If they don’t get back into the spacecraft and get out of their as quickly as possible, they will be cut to ribbons. Of course, they don’t make it back to the craft. Stone is separated from Kowalski and is left adrift in space with nothing to stop her. Until ol’ Matt comes to the rescue.
Once Kowalski is able to get Ryan tethered to him, the try to make it to the International Space Station…but, as we know, debris that encircles the earth is uninhibited in its orbit since there is nothing to stop it. So, the same debris that crashed into and destroyed their ship circles back every 90 minutes to inflict more damage. They must make it to the ISS before the debris once again brings on the fury. At the ISS, there is a ship (the soyuz) that can get them back to Earth. However, once they approach the ISS, the see that the soyuz is damaged and will not be able to get them back to Earth. However, it can get them to the Chinese Space Station, Tiangong. So that’s their aim.
And it’s here that I will stop with the synopsis, as it gets fairly difficult to tell what happens without spoiling what happens. It is a space movie and one has to understand that certain things ALWAYS happen in space films. Feel free to take a guess what occurs.
Now, that said, I wanted to point this out – I’ve never been a Sandra Bullock fan. She seems like a cool person I suppose, but I’ve never connected to any of her performances in the least, comedic or dramatic. I will say this about her character in Gravity – it is the only time I’ve ever rooted for one of her characters to live. So take that for what it is. Her performance is serviceable, nothing spectacular. A friend likened it to Tom Hanks‘ performance in Cast Away (a film I’ve never seen which actually cost me money when I was a contestant on Jeopardy!). However, the training that went into prepping for this role is pretty impressive on her part and I give her all the credit in the world for that. She may just win another Oscar for this role (I would disagree with this).
The photography in this film is astounding. DP Emmanuel Lubezki, the literal genius behind Children of Men (and its astounding tracking shot) and Terrence Malick’s Tree of Life. Get this man his damn Oscar already. Only in Scorsese‘s Hugo have I seen a comparable use of 3D being necessary for telling the story. The additional depth of field given helps provide much needed perspective from the character’s POV to us as viewers. Cuarón and crew knocked this one out of the park.
Shy of The Counselor and 12 Years a Slave, there is no film that came out of the Hollywood hype machine that has made me as excited to go to the theater than Gravity. If you take away the cheeseball ending, this film is really top notch. The script is mostly silent, because, well, that’s what space is like. I know that there are plenty of people that decry the science of Gravity. Lighten up, people. We suspend our disbelief for a reason when we go to the cinema. The intensity of the scenario put forth by Cuarón (who co-wrote the film with his son Jonás kept the script tight, the action coming and restored my faith in space-based films. This was a truly incredible experience. If you want to read more about why this is likely the only space-based film that Cuarón will ever make, check out this great article in Wired magazine.
Here’s the trailer: