Gravity has finally arrived in cinemas and is the kind of surprising movie that comes along all too rarely. If you’ve seen the trailers or TV ads you already know the story; two astronauts are left struggling to survive after an accident causes irreparable damage to their shuttle. There is tension, there is terror and there are many things you’ve never seen before!
3D has always been a bone of contention for me. The idea of stuff “coming out” of the screen at you has always felt like films are being turned into theme park rides. Whilst studio executives and marketers claim 3D provides unparalleled immersion into a story I find it to have the exact opposite effect; I am always aware of the gimmick and therefore never fully commit to the story.
These feelings were quashed for the first time when I saw Avatar at a 3D IMAX presentation. I was able to see what 3D could do when used by a director who truly understood it. Suddenly 3D had become more about the depth of the image; how far it went back rather than how far a spear could be flung out into the audience. But even though I enjoyed it, I still felt the film would work equally as well in 2D. I wondered whether there was a film maker out there who could take 3D and make it the ESSENTIAL way to see his or her movie. To use it in a way that would make you forget the effect and create genuine immersion.
It has been done!
Gravity is the first film that I would say is crucial to be viewed in 3D. Director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) has grasped the medium in such a way that 3D seems the only way to see the film.
He understands that for 3D to work our eyes need time to adjust to each new scene, so he uses long steady shots even during tense action sequences. He understands that a close shot of a character’s face has just as much impact as a frantic scene where the frame is completely full. Most of all though, Alfonso Cuaron understands film.
Sometimes a film feels like it really relies on its specialist team members to make it what it is. For example you can really feel the influence of Danny Elfman’s music on a Tim Burton film. But with Gravity you can sense that everything about the movie was orchestrated by Cuaron’s knowledge and expertise. From the incredible sound design, which consistently creates fear and tension, to the camera work, which seems like it is doing genuinely impossible things.
I’m not going to spoil anything about the film but I will say that you should all take notice of the first shot. It is one unbroken take which probably lasts around 12 minutes and involves such complex camera arcs, twists and pans that it must have taken literally months to devise. Given that it would have all had to be filmed in a green screen environment (unless they really did go to space!) that makes it a wonder to behold.
“It’s time to stop driving, it’s time to go home”
Then there are the performances. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are so assured in their roles that their personal stories come through in a subtle, very organic way. Though each are facing demons (one more so than the other) they never let this come across in a forced way to try and manipulate our emotions. Instead the characters feel very real, which is vital in making the film relatable; after all there aren’t many amongst us who can relate to the situation they are in!
My one slight gripe with the film is that I was so blown away by the film making prowess on display that I kept putting what I was seeing over the story itself. I think if I see the film again I will be able to engage more with the story, rather than obsessing over the technical wizardry on display.
But it’s so hard not to simply be in awe. I guarantee it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before. This is next level movie magic from a master of the medium. If you want to see Gravity, or even if you are in two minds, please just go see it. See it on the biggest screen possible and make sure it’s in 3D (I promise that you won’t here that kind of recommendation from me very regularly).
The only question now is where will Alfonso Cuaron go next? I can’t wait to find out the answer!