Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Gravity: Believe the Hype.

First things first, if you havn't already seen Alfonso Cuaron's space epic, Gravity, it is mandatory that you experience it in its intended format at the IMAX in 3D. And that's exactly what it is, an experience. So many movies nowadays are sensationalised in the media, seems like almost every opening weekend produces a "masterpiece" and so many of these movies fall short of their critical acclaim. Gravity isn't one of those movies. The ecstatic critical praise and box office success completely coincide with the actual film. I honestly believe it is a landmark in cinema history. Whether a fan of the movie or not no one can deny it's cinematic achievement. Personally, I've never seen anything like it before and I came to this conclusion in the opening 12 minutes. We thought the potential of 3D was penetrated perfectly with Avatar, but Gravity is on a whole other level here. The real question is how is anybody ever going to top it?

The plot is basic, but the special effects are complex. It stars Sandra Bullock as Dr Ryan Stone and George Clooney as Matt Kowalski, two astronauts on a routine mission, working on the Hubble Space Telescope. Due to the technical accomplishments of this film we might as well include ourselves in the cast. We float side to side and upside down with them while the enormous scope of the earth engulfs  the background. "Terrifyingly beautiful" Dr Stone describes the breathtaking view at some stage and we can empathise with her. The vast landscape of space is overwhelming and it has never been visualised on such a large scale as this. You might not want to watch this if you are hungover or you might go ahead and give yourself an anxiety attack.

After having our mind blown in the first scene, Steven Price's brooding score washes over the theatre and the thrilling rollercoaster ride begins as debris comes darting at high speed towards our protagonists and their ship. The next 78 minutes is a paramount of almost unbearable suspense and tension. Bullock is the centre of our attention during this ordeal. At times our point of view transcends to her point of view as the camera, without a cut mind you, enters her space helmet so we can see the vast destruction through her eyes. We follow her as she attempts to survive by any means necessary, trying to grab onto anything to keep her from been pushed into outer space. We are hurdled around in zero gravity with her and I found myself constantly twisting and turning my head in order to keep up, dodging debris along the way.

As pure cinema goes, Gravity clearly excels because of its filmmaking technique and groundbreaking special effects. The film's themes might not be as cryptic as say Kubrick's 2001, they are universal and will relate to viewers on a more general level. It's a spiritual film and deals with human endurance. We learn that Ryan is haunted by the death of her daughter and goes through life merely existing. Kowalski on the other hand, finds hope and promise in the good and bad. He acts as Ryan's guardian angel in a way. Ryan's struggle through this tremendous turmoil in space slowly becomes not just the fight for survival, but the fight to truly live again.

Some say the conclusion of Gravity may be cheesy or unrealistic, but by this stage we are so invested into this experience and filled with awe that any other conclusion would be incredibly cynical. Gravity nods its head to the Sci-Fi genre, but this is no Star Wars. It is the Jaws of the 21st century because it touches on one of mankind's primal fears. In 1975 it was the ocean and what lies below, in 2013 its deep space. We are all afraid of the unknown and there is so much we don't know about the universe. In terms of a Hollywood production, Gravity has given us the closest glimpse of the horror and beauty of it.

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