Sunday, 10 November 2013

Accepting Gravity

Man, this is a film that really, really thinks a lot of itself. There's barely a shot in it that doesn't scream either "is this not beautiful?" or "bey you don't know how we pulled that off, huh?"

Which might be more of a problem if the cinematography wasn't so legitimately wonderful. It wouldn't have been hard to take the kind of dogged devotion to technique which resulted in that scene from Children of Men and turn it into the film equivalent of some pompous guitarist's eight-minute fret-wank.  There are a couple of moments when Gravity threatens to cross into this territory - yes, yes, we all get that any structure in space can be used as a metaphor for the womb, let's not pretend that's a massively clever idea or anything - but for much of its run-time, the film is exactly as impressive as it thinks it.

As a result of all this, there's really not a whole amount of characterisation (and what makes it in steers too close too often to mawkishness), or even really much in the way of plot.  But then, that's not even close to what it's doing.  It's an endurance ride, a close cousin to every popcorn flick shoved into our faces each summer, expect that your not supposed to be enjoying it.  Speaking personally, I don't see how one could eat popcorn at all during this film, if only because the seemingly infinite variety of space-related disasters paraded across the screen makes it hard just to maintain your own breathing.[1]

So it succeeds admirably in its stated aim.  There are quibbles. The incidental music is too loud and employed too often, which for a film about oppressive silence is something of a problem.  The apparently surprisingly realistic portrayal of spaceflight breaks down at the end in the interests of Plot Logic, which is frustrating.  And the delightful relief of watching a sci-fi film (which this in effect, even if it doesn't technically qualify as sci-fi) with a female lead who isn't required to meet men on their own stereotyped shoot-heavy turf (c.f. Aliens) is muted by the motherhood issues tacked on to Bullock's character which she absolutely didn't need.

This, though, is just nibbling around the edges. Gravity is a remarkable achievement; an act of film-making that should have been impossible, and one that ticks far more boxes outside its area of interest than perhaps we had any right to expect.

[1] This might only be my problem. Having been hooked up to a nebuliser for several minutes every day as a very young child, I have a severe phobia of situations in which my breathing is even remotely restrictive. Getting my head caught when pulling off a sweater can set off a panic attack.  There are days I try to avoid doing any driving because the proximity of the seat-belt to my neck makes me horribly uncomfortable.  Basically, don't go to this snack-free and then complain you could easily have eaten a three-course meal whilst Sandra Bullock is screaming about her air supply. 

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