Sunday, 13 August 2017

Film Review No. 27 Gravity (12+)

Strong Points:
Constant tension
Mind-blowing visuals
A likeable cast
Extremely clever photography
No filler
Only seeing the perspective of the astronauts increased the isolation
Plenty of Chekov's Gun

Weak Points:
Relies on star-power instead of characters
Started to get humorous instead of tense by the end
A bit gruesome
Some character points are almost just thrown in there
Felt real time except for the use of the watch

Some spoilers ahead:

In-depth Review:
Gravity is a short, tense (my favourite word recently it seems) and beautiful film. Running at around 1 1/2hr's it's relatively short but paced to pretty much perfection. The film basically explores Murphy's Law (anything that can go wrong will) in space, a frontier which is pretty much guaranteed to make people clench their fists in fear and wonder. As Gravity is more concerned with the themes and space as a character, it does rely slightly on the star power of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney - it felt like we were watching the actors fighting for their lives instead of characters.

Not to say that the characters weren't developed, they both had interesting quirks and backstories (told without the help of flashbacks, a welcome removal as it kept us in the scene), with Ryan's storyline of her kid being particularly heart-breaking (especially in its matter-of-fact delivery). The problem is, I had to check Ryan's name as I was writing this review as the characters are never given quite enough room to grow (with some character points feeling thrown in there as an afterthought), instead it's their reaction to their experiences which the film focuses on.

Some of these experiences are just simply astounding in terms of film making. Released in 2013, Gravity still looks incredibly realistic in its space photography and scale. You feel each thud and thump of the astronaut's journey to get back home and at some points feel just as isolated as them when looking out into the great expanse of space. The film switches perspectives constantly from first-person to massive wide shots showing the entire journey from A to B and some of the camera shots are simply inspired - looking into the reflection of a tear was one of my favourites.

So many sci-fi films from Interstellar to The Martian involve trying to get someone from space back to Earth and try and capitalise on the isolated nature of space to tell a grand adventure of getting someone home. Gravity does this as well, but slightly differently - removing the heroics of Ground Zero and increasing the isolation even more. If the film had cut even once to down below, with Huston running wildly, trying to get their astronauts to safety, most of the tension would've been lost as dramatic irony sinks in - the audience would know that Earth was trying to get to Space as much as Space was trying to get to Earth. By removing that half of the conversation not only did we remove any filler of Huston deciding whether to risk anything for a singular life form but it also ramped up the atmosphere to 11 - we knew as much as Ryan did, and that terrified me.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney surprised me in this film as I mostly know them from their more comedic roles and although there were some comedic moments in the film (both intentional and not) it was mostly a dramatic movie. You felt like Sandra Bullock's character was new to space and kept a lot of emotions bottled up while Clooney's character felt experienced and calming not only to Ryan but to the audience as well. Given that the script didn't really push for these developments of character, you've got to give credit to both actors for giving that much depth to their respective characters.

The film has plenty of references to themes and ideas with Ryan's journey basically being a rebirth (there's even a scene where she acquires a foetal position with a wire representing the umbilical cord). It also has plenty of foreshadowing through the use of objects from the small clouds of fire turning into an explosion or the parachute seen as Ryan gets close to the ISS then getting caught later on as she tries to escape. Everything in the film seemed placed for a reason, and you got the feeling of watching the film in real-time due to these extra details besides the fact that the in-film time clocks in at around 210 minutes (as shown by the 90 minute intervals between the debris reaching Ryan) compared to the real-life time of 90 minutes. The use of the 90 minutes long trip for the debris, while being scientifically accurate, did remove some of the immersion for me as bits of the film suddenly felt sped up when the debris came around again.

Conclusion: overall, I enjoyed this film a lot more than I thought I would, and I don't think I've ever held my breath for so long as when watching this movie, even if by the end Ryan's constant barriers to escape became almost humorous in their consistency.

Rating: 90%

Thanks for reading, Satamer.

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