Gravity – 3D (2013)
Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men)
Starring: Sandra Bullock (The Heat), George Clooney (The Descendants)
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama, Thriller
3D has recently become somewhat of a novelty to throw an extra two or three pounds down the drain. The output has, with a few exceptions, been a slew of so-so children’s animations and mindless blockbuster action movies. Now along comes Gravity to show us how 3D is really done, and that means even showing James Cameron a trick or two. The film doesn’t just enhance and exploit the 3D but it almost requires it, to the point of it being a necessity to view it in the extra dimension. There is a chance you could lose a lot of the experience seeing the ‘flat print’.
It is partly down to the outer-space setting. Rather than in other 3D releases where objects are manipulated via the action to burst towards your confused, aching eyes, the environment of outer space with its zero-G means that objects naturally drift in an out of view. It’s a slow, slick, flexible screen where the 3D can highlight the sensation of zero-G perfectly. There are times that Alfonso Cuarón aims for the minimal; the camera focusing on a drop of water in the foreground, or focusing on Sandra Bullock’s face for extended lengths of time.
It’s this aspect which is most prominent. Ever since the brilliant Children of Men, Cuarón has been known for his contemplative camera work, including lots of long takes. In fact, the first shot of the movie is astounding in its accomplishment, lasting at least 5 minutes, swirling with the movements of Clooney and Bullock, as well as the debris around them and the ropes that tether them to their shuttle.
Of course these ropes snap, and the jeopardy comes from Sandra Bullock drifting further and further into space, due to a catastrophic and sudden shower of debris. It’s a terrifying, sickening and repulsive situation to be in. One couldn’t be any more in the middle of nowhere. This is where Cuarón’s style comes into its own, as he forces us to stick with our protagonists through their struggle to get to safety, not allowing us to cut away for respite. It’s a struggle that lasts pretty much the entirety of the film, making the whole experience unimaginably exhausting. By adding in the 3D element, it becomes a form of emotional turmoil. You really feel the depth of space, you really are immersed. A part of you may just want to get up, with your feet on the ground, and go for a walk around the cinema just to reassure yourself that it is just a movie.
One thing to say is that it’s not a plot-packed film. One shouldn’t go with the expectation of usual big-movie fare. Yes, there are set pieces and yes there is action but in terms of plot, nothing much changes. From very early on the set up is established – our protagonists must get to safety – and it doesn’t evolve throughout the next 90 minutes. For the majority it will be the most gripping 90 minutes of their movie-viewing lives, but it’s worth noting that for some they may just come out thinking: ‘Well it looked nice, but what happened?!’.
A great performance by Bullock keeps you interested in the character sufficiently, which is vital considering how little we learn of our leads, and how much time we have to spend with them. The premise could have been laughable – drifting around space, manoeuvring, straining and stretching to get to safety in, what is to us earthlings, a ludicrous scenario. Can space engineers really just fly around space like that? It is a bit of a mind-blower, so one that needs a great lead performance to ground it in reality and human emotion, around all the extra-terrestrial activity.
Summary: Be ready for a fight, be ready to battle with your lead character the whole way. It’s not an easy ride, you may just come out wanting sleep immediately, but for most it will be worth it. For most it will be a unique, unbelievable journey that we may never experience the likes of in cinema again. For the visuals alone this film earns top marks, it depends on each audience member’s patience whether the actual story earns the tag of either ‘love’ or ‘hate’.
Rating: 5 out of 5