Gravity (UK/ USA, 2013)
Directed by Alfonso Cuarón
Starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Orto Ignatiussen
IMDb Top 250: #68 (11/12/13)
Praising a film for its technical accomplishments is often an underhand way of saying that its story isn't up to scratch. We've all heard the phrase "style over substance" and can readily think of many examples of films which fit that description. Many of the films which belong in this category don't merit too much by way of disappointment: it's so easy to see where the money went that we have very low expectations of depth from the outset. Gravity, on the other hand, does merit some disappointment, being such a fantastic visual experience that it is almost perplexing why its story isn't better.
Captain Phillips about how Paul Greengrass shoots a film as if the camera and crew are constantly reacting to the drama unfolding: nothing feels artificial or obviously choreographed, and the natural tension from the story is magnified by the growing visual panic. Gravity takes this approach to new heights, putting the camera in a seemingly weightless environment where we are at the mercy of even the tiniest force. Even without the 3D, you do feel like you are really there, alongside the astronauts and feeling just as helpless when the trouble comes.
Lord of the Rings trilogy and contributed to the soundtracks of Batman Begins and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. In his second full score (following The World's End earlier this year), he gives us a cunning blend of traditional classical suites, which emphasis the elegiac nature of space, and more intimidating synth-driven themes which put us on edge. It's a thoroughly impressive score which keeps the film driving forward even in its stillest moments.
Avatar, in other words. But again, Cuarón resists the obvious temptation, bringing the film in at around 90 minutes and delivering a story whose scope is well-suited to that time-frame. We do not feel that we have been deprived of spectacular visuals, but neither do we feel like the visuals have overstayed their welcome.
The Perks of Being a Wallflower, "cinema is both a visual and a narrative medium, and the best offerings in any given genre are a delicate balance of the two." While Gravity's technical brilliance cannot be in doubt, its weaker storyline prevents it from being called a masterpiece.
Alien and 2001: A Space Odyssey, manage to be both technically extraordinary and narratively fascinating. The former took a fairly simple promise (Hallowe'en in space) and turned it into a terrifying, multi-layered study of gender, psychology and corporate paranoia. The latter used its dazzling special effects to ask deep questions about God, alien influence in mankind, the evolution of our species and the dangers of technology. The story of Gravity isn't bad, it simply isn't as deep or as well-developed as it could and should have been.
Star Wars trilogy made more of an effort to disguise their true intentions.
NEXT REVIEW: The Look of Love (2013)