james debate
james debate

Tuesday 17 December 2013

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Written by Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón
Produced by Alfonso Cuarón, David Heyman
Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Studio Heyday Films
Running time 90 minutes

gravity alfonso cuaron George Clooney Sandra bullock oscars

Alfonso Cuarón is one of Hollywood's best kept secrets. His career has thus far dabbled in foreign films, art-house projects and, bizarrely, Harry Potter, but first attained recognition in mainstream cinema with his most recent previous directorial effort, 2006 masterpiece Children of Men. Chances are even the most out of touch movie-goer will have heard the hype surround his newest film Gravity. Set entirely in the zero gravity of space, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts stranded in orbit as the result of a catastrophic accident.

Anyone who has been following this movie's development will no doubt have become frustrated by its prolonged gestation period and recurring production delays. Oftentimes such stutters auger poorly for the end quality of a film, but thankfully that is not the case here. Instead all that time has been used in perfecting a sublimely detailed film that is truly remarkable for many reasons.

Gravity is remarkable firstly for its simplicity. Following in the footsteps of other realistic depictions of space, notably Kubrick's 2001, Gravity is a film that uses audio only selectively, with very minimal diegetic sounds. It is a film with only two main cast members, particularly Sandra Bullock who is on screen alone for at least a good half of the movie and carries it impressively. Meanwhile the plot itself is refreshingly simple, there is no historical context, no background mythology, you just turn up to the cinema completely blind, and enjoy the film.

And enjoy it you will, for Gravity is at its core a masterfully paced human drama. Its themes of isolation, human spirit and the will to survive in the face of overwhelming odds are very reminiscent of the film 127 Hours, and a preponderance of religious imagery both visual and metaphorical ultimately culminates in a rebirth of Bullock's character.

Gravity is more remarkable still for its technical accomplishments, including arguably the most stunning space photography ever seen in a film, and shunning a big-screen friendly depiction of space for one that is extremely detailed and more realistic. Gravity recreates zero-gravity effects and physics that are (for the most part) very convincing, owing to detail that extends as far as floating teardrops, zero-gravity flame balls, and the difficulties involved in manoeuvring with such conditions. But it is particularly the use of 3D that brings the visuals of this film to the next level, and that is something that The Ephemeric never thought we would say about a film, even after seeing Avatar. Zero-gravity space is by its disorienting, multi-directional nature the greatest justification for the use of 3D in a film beyond mere spectacle that we have seen yet.

Cuarón makes several bold choices in his direction, attempting things that few if any other filmmakers have done before right from the beginning. Gravity opens with an incredible single camera tracking shot that lasts a good fifteen minutes, all the while ducking and weaving freely in zero gravity as events unfold. It's filmmaking at its audacious best, completely untethered from the restraints of earthbound scenes, disorienting yet immaculate. Best of all, Gravity's pitch perfect pacing and restrained running time ensure that it never overstays its welcome or gets taken for granted.

Yet what is most remarkable about Gravity is the fact that a film like this; a niche sci-fi subject, minimalist, no franchise, no overdrawn mythology, not a blockbuster by any means; can still capture the mainstream cinema audience's imagination in this day and age. Few studios will take the chance on investing such a high budget on something so abstract, something that isn't already established in popular culture or with years of hype. Gravity is a bold and unique film that proves that taking chances on work of real artistic value can be financially viable.

Yes it's three 5-star reviews in a row. Get over it, it's deserved.

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