Saturday, October 12, 2013


The genre of science fiction, specifically those set in space, has bred some of cinema's finest achievements - "2001: A Space Odyssey" and "Alien" for example. With all due respect to the reverence attached these films(based largely on their age), 2013's "Gravity" is just as brilliant and in some ways, even more quintessential. For experiencing the visceral thrill of being in space, "Gravity" is unmatched.
The 90 minute adventure of the film tracks a space mission involving our protagonist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock). This is her first expedition, accompanied by veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). It's a wondrous new experience for her, made all the more pleasant by the quippy charm of Kowalski. Unfortunately, their work is soon disrupted by high-speed debris hurtling towards them.
What follows is a frightening but thrilling tale of survival. Stone must summon all her courage and wit to devise a new rescue mission. The damage of the collision is catastrophic, practically a disaster movie of sorts. It's a specific personal experience for Stone, but Cuaron amplifies the gravity (no pun intended) of the situation to mind-blowing effect. In a feat of virtuosic directing, Cuaron uses visual storytelling that is unique and original. Words are inadequate to describe the astonishing quality of the cinematography and visual effects. Never has something so unfathomable seemed so tangible. You're likely to be left in flabbergasted awe, wondering how they managed to successfully pull off such an ambitious film. It's a triumph on all fronts, with particular achievements in visuals, sound and editing.
Cuaron really reinvogorates the power of the closeup and the long take. The immediacy is palpable, never allowing you to detach yourself from the raw energy of the adventure. But even though the action is forceful and robust, there's an overarching grace due to the fluidity of the camerawork and editing. It's impressive enough to work as a silent film, but there's no denying the excellence of the film's sound. The sound effects and score resonate and help to transport you to this new frontier (assuming you've never been to space yourself).
Indeed, the technical prowess almost defies the usual classification of cinema. However, there's a beating heart at the film's core that avoids any esoteric agenda. The images of earth, space and spacecraft are stunning, but the human story is why you bought the ticket (by the way, please watch this on the big screen). The screenplay itself is perhaps the weakest element of the film, something you're likely to hear from the film's detractors. I wager that this is simply because the technical craft is so ahead of its time that the storytelling is glaringly conventional. This is nitpicking though, as its not a bad script by any means. It's a film of powerful emotion, delivered by an actress in peak form. Never let it be said that Sandra Bullock is not a good actress. She carefully lays out that character arc so that the emotions creep up on you, coalescing in a rapturous finale. It's such a great character, instilling with it a sense of heroism and sprituality. Without her, the film wouldn't be nearly as profound.
There's a point in the movie when Clooney explains the blissful feeling of being in the calm environs of space. It allows you to literally leave all your troubles and fears behind. The film's audiovisual excellence translates this so perfectly for the viewer. It's why this movie will attract numerous repeat viewings.
But earth beckons in the background, beautiful in its own right. At the end of the day you have to go back home, whether its from a daring space mission or a simple trip to the movie theater. "Gravity" is an apt title then, conveying the truth in the science "fiction". The moments of euphoria (such as the experience of this groundbreaking film) enrich our lives but there are internal and external forces that pull us back to our everyday reality. The beauty of this dichotomy is what allows "Gravity" to transcend its genre and for that, it's a masterpiece.

From an Oscar perspective, "Gravity is a no-brainer. It's going to win a few technical categories in a walk. I will be shocked if another film steals its Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Visual Effects. I mean, those shots of earth alone are just awe-inspiring, not to mention the action in space. The film is likely to be a strong contender for Best Sound Mixing and Best Sound Editing as well. The film is perfectly concise and seamless and Steve Price's score is mesmerizing. Expect to see nods for Best Editing and Best Original Score. All of these categories are fairly easy gets for a science fiction/thriller film though, so the more significant expressions of support will come from nominations in the major categories. I don't see it having much trouble though, as it should be a slam dunk for nominations (and maybe wins) in Best Actress, Best Director and Best Picture. What I'm most intrigued by is how the Academy will respond to the screenplay. It's the one aspect that people aren't crazy about but personally, I don't see how you can refuse to acknowledge the originality of the concept. Hence, I think it will pick up a nomination for Best Original Screenplay too. Will genre bias take over on Oscar night or will the voters join in the praise? I can't wait to find out.

No comments:

Post a Comment