Amidst the onslaught of post-converted 3D tentpole movies back in 2011, a consensus was generally held that when Martin Scorsese unleashed his 3D fantasy tale The Invention of Hugo Cabret (later shortened simply to Hugo) upon us, the format would suddenly make sense. While that film largely failed to deliver the goods, its lost privilege has now been swept up with great gusto by Alfonso Cuarón’s sci-fi survival tale Gravity, the first great piece of event cinema since the release of Avatar in 2009 and easily a contender for the finest popcorn blockbuster of the year.
Whilst the general critical focus tends to be on the 3D used in the film (it’s worth noting that its use of the IMAX format is equally if not more impressive), what truly dazzles about Gravity is it’s visual aesthetic. Built entirely on a platform of prolonged shots and minimal cuts, rarely has cinematography ever felt so fluid, camerawork so graceful, it’s a genuine marvel by frequent Cuarón-collaborator Emmanuel Lubezki in his first entirely digital production. The visuals tell an almost beautifully ironic story in and of themselves (irony in fact is one of the film’s greatest triumphs, even down to its title); which, when coupled with a beautiful orchestral arrangement by Steven Price and easily the best sound design of any film this year, make for an incredibly well-put together piece of fluidic big screen popcorn-fodder.
Of course, no film can rely on visuals alone (sorry, Terrence Malick) and, whilst Gravity is hardly Inception in terms of a complex narrative, it works incredibly well as a stripped-down character-driven survival tale with a borderline B-movie sensibility. You may have encountered this story in a few dozen direct-to-DVD releases, but between the film’s overall build-quality and the breadth of the performances within it, it’s hard to find fault.
Overcoming a wealth of character clichés, both Bullock and Clooney shine. Clooney may sadly be lumbered with the role of “Astronaut George Clooney” (he likes drinking and women, go figure) but his career-defining charm wins out effortlessly. Bullock, meanwhile, has seemingly been spending some time in the performance gym; flexing her muscles and displaying a set of acting chops the likes of which she never has before. It’s a career highlight, a Best Actress nomination for sure, and another sparkle in what was already an utter gem of a movie.
Catch Van Connor’s reviews in our Movies section and live on Slam Dunk Cinema every Saturday at 12PM on Sheffield Live! 93.2FM or on the podcast via iTunes.
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney