2013, Movies

Gravity (2013, Alfonso Cuaron)

Every so often, a film comes along that redefines what is possible in cinema.

At one point in the history of film, it was thought that the camera must always stay on one side of the actors in a given scene; it could move laterally or it could zoom out or in, or it could even change it’s angle, but it couldn’t cross the imaginary line between the actors and the camera itself, for two reasons:

  1. First, most movies were shot on sound-stages and the sets didn’t extend all the way around;
  2. Second, it was thought that such camera movement would confuse audiences because the locations of the actors would flip.

People have obviously being playing with and destroying this rule for decades, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film that so willfully ignored it the way Gravity does.

But it makes sense: Gravity is the first film I know of that takes place properly in 0 gravity. There have been numerous other films set in space, but the vast majority of them – at least the goods ones – were set inside ships in space, in part to use the vacuum of space and the smallness of the ship to create claustrophobia.

Movies that have filmed scenes outside of space-ships (involving people) have inevitably looked terrible.

But that has all changed with Gravity. Gravity exists in space. There’s no other way I can describe it. The camera floats like the actors and props do, creating some of the most amazing sequences you are likely ever to see – until the next technological revolution. The combination of high-quality CGI and camera movements – or perceived camera movements, as there is a lot of CGI here obviously – makes you the viewer feel like you are in space in a way no other film has even remotely attempted. It is an incredible technological achievement that, to my eyes, only ever suffered from one moment of sensory overload.

Additionally – and no doubt, due greatly to the sense of being with the astronauts in space – Gravity contains a few of the tensest moments on screen you will see this year or any other, where the fear of Bullock’s or Clooney’s character is visceral.

Unfortunately for a movie so visually well done, there are a few flaws. The biggest is the score; this film is so over-scored – and the score is mixed so loudly – it feels like the score was written for the dumbest audience in the history of film; it’s like having a person in the theatre with you, shouting at you, “Feel tense NOW!!!” It’s really distracting at times, and quite possibly annoying. It is the worst thing about the movie.

Also, some of the impossibility of Bullock’s character’s escapades – especially near the end – somewhat weakens the overall effect of the movie, which is otherwise incredibly believable and realistic for a space movie that actually takes place outside of a spaceship. This somewhat dispels some of the otherwise incredible tension that is built up.

That being said, see this movie, in #3D, in theatres before it is too late and you have to watch it on your TV.


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