What movie was that...?

08 October 2013


directed by Alfonso Cuarón

Nope. I told you, I hate space. 
                              -my wife, when I asked her if she wanted to see Gravity with me. 

Don’t worry. I’m not going to get all Neil deGrasse Tyson and snarkily pick apart the minor details of such a tremendous film, mostly because I think it’s a really Grinchy thing to do, but more importantly, I don’t really care enough about factual minutiae like adult diapers and east to west/west to east debris fields. How did Dr T feel about the reality of Deep Impact, I wonder? There is a huge difference between taking issue with plot holes or inconsistencies that manifest as a result of poor writing versus dissecting so called factual details simply to take the art down a peg or two. The point here is that all films have elements of the unreal, elements that don’t exactly add up, because they are movies! What’s important is that the experience feels real, and Gravity accomplishes this in fine fashion. Emmanuel Lubezki is one of the great contemporary cinematographers (from the life-sapped dystopian gloom of Children of Men to the spectral mystery of Tree of Life), and as we float and fling and careen through the vastness of space, it is ever the immaculate blues and greens and whites of earth that compel us to hold on. The sound design and score were superb, evoking the wispy, nebulous beauty of Brian Eno’s For All Mankind score at times and 2001 at others (especially the terrifyingly muted, chaotic scenes of destruction as space ships and stations are ravaged). And what an aural treat (as well as a sensational call back to another space classic, Apollo 13) it was to hear Ed Harris as Houston mission control. While all of these elements coalesce spectacularly to envelope the audience in a cloak of adventure, fear, wonder and sheer awe, it is the expertly understated work of Sandra Bullock and George Clooney that tether us to something worth saving. So much of this film is jaw droppingly astonishing that it makes their matter of fact portrayals a perfect counterpoint to balance the abundant visual marvels. Cuarón’s camera work is inspired, navigating his audience through peril and splendor in equal measure, and perhaps for the first time I experienced 3D that actually worked to make the film more immersive rather than dilute its effectiveness. When Dr Stone becomes untethered and begins her terrifying tumble into space, I was right there, my heart racing, my stomach in knots. It was a brilliant experience to be so completely whisked away, much like how I felt watching Jurassic Park or Where the Wild Things Are for the first time, and isn’t that what makes the movies so very wonderful? To be transported, intellectually, emotionally, even physically, to worlds of which we never could have dreamed, it’s the closest thing to real magic we can experience. 

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