Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Gravity (2013)


Matt Kowalski: I get it, it's nice up here. You could just shut down all the systems, turn down all the lights, just close your eyes and tune out everyone. There's nobody up here that can hurt you. It's safe. What's the point of going on? What's the point of living? Your kid died, it doesn't get any rougher than that. It's still a matter of what you do now. If you decide to go then you just gotta get on with it. Sit back, enjoy the ride, you gotta plant both your feet on the ground and start living life. Hey, Ryan, it's time to go home.

Right, now let's get a crack-a-liking. This post was a bit long overdue, so I won't waste your time prepping you anymore. Since we've had had the Golden Globe Awards, the SAG Awards, the Producer's Guild Awards, the Critics Awards and the much ignored People's Choice Awards, it's time we get this boat sailing and start doing some major revewing of what's in the cinemas right now and buzzing for the Oscars. 

Many opinions have been flying about for this particular film. Some of which were mostly (in retrospect) negative, regarding mostly the "acting" element in the film. Many people (in retrospect) were defuting that there was any acting involved in the film. It was just all floating and CGI flying over our heads for 2 hours in the cinema. But let's dig a little bit deeper, shall we?

The reason I used the word - in retrospect, twice above- is because up until the point the film was shown in the cinemas, people were too eager to go and marvel at Alfonso Cuaron's phenomenon. 'Oh what has he achieved now? Does it work? Is it as spectacular as they market it to be?'. And so on and so forth.

So we went to watch it and form our own impressions on this space adventure. 

Gravity then - what's it about? 

Just briefly to say the synopsis, for those who have not yet indulged in watching this film, and would like to know what's all the fuss about: "Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is a brilliant medical engineer on her first shuttle mission, with veteran astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney) in command of his last flight before retiring. But on a seemingly routine spacewalk, disaster strikes. The shuttle is destroyed, leaving Stone and Kowalsky completely alone - tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness." (source: www.imdb.com)

So let's start with emotion: was there any? Various opinions in the horizon, many have intense objections regarding emotional drama in the film. Personally I experienced goosebumps. Major ones too. Why?

First of all, let's not forget on the conditions the two actors were asked to portray their characters in. 90% of the film was shot with green screen, having just a camera pointing to them or following them around, talking to the absolute emptiness, floating about, with heavy space gear on. And on top of that, they had to deliver lines, and extract emotion. 

Maybe so, Clooney's role may have been limited, he hardly stayed there long enough to develop any kinds of emotions with the viewers, apart from the comedic relief ones very early one in the film - and most of the female audience were sad to see him go so soon from their screen projector. 

So was it enough to have a one-protagonist film for the remaining time of the film, and a female one at that?

I've never considered Sandra Bullock, THE GREATEST actress to hold an entire film all by herself. However, she in in some ways brilliant in her own manner - as we have seen her in the past in comedies and dramas alike (The Blind Side, Crash, The Lake House, Speed, The Proposal, Miss Congeniality I & II). As an actress she did have her ups and downs, but looking at her acting work objectively in this film, we must grant her that she did a pretty good job in maintaining a balance in her role. 

It is a big deal to just float about and have the ability to convey the fear, the loneliness, the sadness of this character. Lest we forget, Cuaron, cleverly subplotted the character's backstory into the plot, and how the vast emptiness that she was experiencing in her life, would ultimately be the breaking point for her survival. It was a bold move to allow Bullock to transform this space journey into a journey of survival, but I believe it paid off for multiple reasons. 

Considering the visual techniques in Gravity, we have nothing but marvel Alfonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Children of Men, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Paris Je T'Aime, Great Expectations). He co-wrote the screen play with his son, Jonas Cuaron, and he made sure that he didn't spend a lot of time on trivial matters when it came to induling in his space experience. 

Visually, Gravity was an immensely challenging film to shoot due to all the various aspects he had to consider regarding what it actually feels like to be in space. Along with his cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (Sleepy Hollow, Children of Men, they chose to enhance their production with real-life elements that would enable the viewer to believe that whilst the dramatic action was in place so would the visual will be in a perfect coordination. 

An example of that was the use of the lighting and the sound which would indicate at exactly what time span the action was unravelling whilst the time was rapidly moving. They managed to coordinate these two key elements in this visual story, so that every time one of the actors would move or float would have the precise lighting and sound that would actually exist in real life space time. Along with their LED lighting techniques and their physical movement coordination they had to make sure that every dramatic line would not step onto the visual narrative of the film's production.

The average viewer will consider all of these make-belief techniques and undertakings trivial and unimportant to the dramatic narrative of the story, at some points even exhausting and with nothing real to convey. 

The true masterpiece comes from within these elements though; if we but only consider that the character is actually floating solo in space, with no mission control to actual have a guidance from, the gravity of the situation is a fierce one. What Cuaron plays upon, is so skillfully to produce a unison between the psychological action going on in the character's psyche along with the external forces that penetrate the character with their visual infusion. In terms of production filmmaking, this is a visual glory at its best. And Cuaron did not fail to produce a carefully executed story that would present a thematically challenging narrative whilst allowing the viewer to get a glimpse of this 'what would it be like out there'. 

In visual terms, the production team worked marvels, thus quite rightly so it is now heralded with an overflow of nominations and awards. The filmmaking community distinguishes this work, not so much on the sympathy of the characters but for the gravity of the visualization of the unknown. And to this we would only be fair to admit Cuaron's extraordinary directorial genuis. 

Objectively so, this film is not everyone's cup of tea type of film. It is not your average Star Trek or outer space experience kind of film, but it is definitely a visualized conceptual piece of filmmaking you simply cannot reject by its lack of family drama. It is another piece of art, a more uknown thematically filmmaking piece, that deserves its proper recognition in its own terms. 

Lastly, just to briefly mention the astounding musical score of the film by composer Steven Price, which is also up for an Oscar nomination. You can listen to a piece from the soundtrack here

For those that did enjoy the film, I am glad you relished in its own groundbreaking filmmaking boundaries. And for the ones that didn't, I hope it didn't drag on too long till you got out of the cinema hall. 

Till next time folks. 




  1. I to be honest was overly surprised by the performance of Sandra bullock as even though she has shown signs of good acting I didn't think she could pull of a leading role like this ! I would really like to hear your views for the foreign film "the hunt" ! It's a major contender for the Oscar with the odds stacking highly for it to win !

    1. Thank you for your comment Nicola. As a matter of fact I intended to review in due time 'The Hunt' It's an amazing film. I will so. Thank u for following the blog. ;)

      P.S. I do agree with your views on Bullock's acting too.