Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Writer: Alfonso Cuarón, Jonás Cuarón
Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
“There’s nobody up here that can hurt you. It’s safe.”
In all of its glorious 3 dimensions the space set roller coaster Gravity was an absolute revelation. Even the most jaded of pop corn munchers couldn’t fail to be reduced to a drooling mess in astonishment at the visual trickery. Audiences let down by the gimmicky fad were finally able to experience the magical effects ambitiously promised years ago but which have consistently surface, until now.
Assuming you could stump up the premium cash required for optimum seats in an IMAX it was a mouth wide open experience of objects flying out of the screen, an added sense of depth inducing vertigo, and audience members swinging wild punches out into the air as George Clooney’s planet sized smug face seemed to be right their in front of them.
But how does the film stand up to the primitive home technology of 50inch HD smart TVs with their laughably basic 2 dimensions?
Well, for a thrill ride with bare minimum plot, it actually stands up exceptionally well.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star as astronauts carrying out a routine repair mission on the International Space station when disaster strikes. It is a simple set up which doesn’t get any more complicated than a fight for survival.
No amount of George Clooney’s new and improved smug bastard character and the occasional and lame allusions to the interventions of god can spoil the realism as the ride quickly slams on the acceleration before giving you a chance to think about complaining. Anyway, the film is most definitely Sandra Bullock’s show and she commands the screen well giving just the right balance of vulnerability with resourcefulness and spirit. There are a couple of genuinely emotional scenes which Bullock has to manufacture all by herself, giving the audience a good idea as to the characters loneliness and helplessness.
Though lacking any real depth to its story Gravity never really tries to be anything other than a pure shock to the senses. Run time is kept sensibly short and there are no superfluous sub plots to clutter the narrative or blunt the visceral experience.
For a film which relies heavily on its visual achievements the transition to the small screen has surprisingly compromised almost nothing, helped in no small part to the incredible effects which set new benchmarks in detailed realism. Space stations and shuttles are recreated in astonishing detail and it is truly difficult to figure out if they are CGI, crafted miniature models, or life sized recreations. Hell, its difficult to be sure they didn’t just blast everyone into orbit and film above the Earth.
Even in 2D there remains a strong sense of perspective and depth as the camera seamlessly transitions through all manner of epic pans and swoops in complex routes through the action.
Even our polluted shit hole of a planet manages to look breathtakingly beautiful (the old girl really does scrub up well) and frighteningly realistic in its scale as it forms an imposing titanic backdrop and highlight how insignificant the goings on of the puny humans and their small tin cans actually are.
The zero gravity setting truly is a stroke of genius for a 3D production but even outside of this it offers a unique thrill which has never been taken advantage of before even in space classics like Star Wars or Aliens. Even the classic Star Trek: Undiscovered Country zero grav sequence doesn’t hold a candle to this.
The trick is in the clever and authentic orchestration in the movement of the actors as they helplessly bouncing, drifting, crashing, and clinging onto whatever they can, creating an inescapable tension even in the simplest of moments. In truth the environment coupled with the effects mean that almost anything could be happening on screen and it would feel hypnotically magical.
The only thing which does occasionally irritate and distract is to see constant small objects floating towards the screen, or in front of the actors, all for the benefit of the 3D. There are even one or two longer shots which seem to linger for no reason with the effect removed but they are rare occasions.
Director Alfonso Cuarón is worthy of all the plaudits and awards his film has garnerred and his next projects will be watched closely. On this evidence he is something of a master at balancing the role of the visuals, sound and the rhythmic use of pace.
Gravity is an original modern blockbuster which radically raises the bar in visuals both in 3D and 2D. Perhaps its threadbare narrative will lessen its impact over time as the effects become less astonishing (it always inevitably happens) but for now it is one of the most incredible experiences around in cinema.