October 3, 2013 by bck1402
Stars Sandra Bullock with George Clooney and Ed Harris
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
It’s been just over four years since director Alfonso Cuarón delivered his last feature film, the gripping thriller and technically astounding, Children of Men back in 2006. It really wasn’t long after that when he announced he was going to make this movie way back then. The intriguing part of it was really the simplicity of the concept – which I’m not going to say here as it is the plot of the film. Note that cast list.
If there’s anything you really need to know about the movie, it’s Kessler Syndrome. It’s one of those worst case scenarios about Space travel and exploration. Simply put, Kessler Syndrome is a scenario where a cascade effect occurs due to space debris. There are a lot of stuff floating up there, and it’s not just satellites (and for a really good idea, look at that brief moment when Wall-E leaves Earth for Space and flies through all that space junk). A collision would produce debris, and the speed of which the debris would move at would collide with other stuff (additional debris or satellites and such) to produce more debris and so on. An episode of the excellent anime Planetes, which chronicles the lives of blue-collar Space Trashmen who collect space debris, deals with the threat of Kessler Syndrome when terrorists plan to attack their Space Station base. See the episode here.
But that’s just of the many worst case scenarios played out in Gravity, and it really is best I don’t give anymore away.
It is safe to say that Cuarón continues to dazzle us with some amazing visuals and tight storytelling. After all, he did give us just about the best of the Harry Potter movies too, but his technical skill here is miles and miles above that. What he experimented with in Children of Men, the long takes through technically impossible locations (for example) is out in full force here. The opening scene alone coasts along uncut for a really lengthy period. In fact, the long takes permeate the movie and it adds to the realism of the situations.
From a technical standpoint, they are amazing feats of cinema. Even if its simply the gorgeous cinematography by Emmanuel Lubezki – Earth is so damn beautiful, Space is so vast and empty – or the choreography between characters and space and camera, you can’t help but be taken in by the visuals. You might notice the long shots or the lack of edit cuts, but I’d say you’d be hard-pressed to keep track of it throughout the film. Cuarón’s handle on the camera itself takes you from the vastness of space to the claustrophobic environment of the spacesuit in a single move, and back again. It’s nothing short of amazing.
Of course, the effects work led by FrameStore is simply astounding what with weightless setting of Space being the major hurdle, taking up a huge majority of the film. Add in the amount of space debris and other floating objects, and there is an immense amount of detail work going on.
While the score provides some additional tension, the sound design is also in line with the realism of the situation, keeping a lot of external sounds to a bare minimum if there is really no air to hear them. What we hear is simply what the astronauts themselves hear, even if it’s their own heartbeat. Although, there is also some play with the direction of the sound what with the free-form floating about.
Speaking of free-form floating, the use of 3D is really well designed. We do have the occasional object floating in front of us while the sense of depth is used to full and glorious effect, giving Space a real sense of space. It really is the best option when it comes to watching this movie.
Gravity is a roller-coaster of a movie. I won’t say there hasn’t been a movie like this in a while, because there has, but there hasn’t been a science fiction movie like this in a long while that I can remember. It plays up its themes very well, and its title alone has many connotations. The sparse use of sound, the free-form sense of weightlessness and the overall situation is the closest one would get to actually making a movie in Space. Add to that the incredible use of 3D and this would either be a must-see for any astronaut in training or a warning for anyone who thinks working in Space is glamorous. Either way, this is excellent film-making on display, effective storytelling at work, an amazing performance from Sandra Bullock from start to finish, practically carrying the entire movie and, without a doubt, an outstanding film that has to be seen.