Gravity

Posted: November 22, 2013 in Film reviews

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

When a Russian satellite explodes it unleashes a deadly cloud of debris that smashes into a space shuttle on a routine mission. The only survivors of the destruction are veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) and, on her first mission, Dr Ryan Stone (Bullock). Adrift in the most inhospitable environment of all they must find a way to survive, and somehow make it back to Earth.

I’m going to swim against the tide here, because Gravity left me a little underwhelmed. I did wonder if perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood for it, but then I wasn’t in much of a mood for Ender’s Game a few weeks ago and ended up loving it. Maybe I just naturally react negatively to over hyped films? Well that’s possible, but I remember seeing The Artist after it’d got its Oscar when it probably couldn’t get more hyped, and still adoring it. So maybe, in breakup parlance, it isn’t me, maybe it’s just Gravity.

In space characterisation is apparently as sparse as oxygen, and we learn very little about our protagonists. Bullock’s character is mainly defined by her daughter, although we do learn she’s called Ryan because her parents wanted a boy (really getting under the skin of the character there). She is better served than Clooney however, whose veteran astronaut must, one imagines, have a big string attached somewhere that you pull to make him utter some stock phrases; “I have a bad feeling about this, Houston.” “This reminds me of that time I…”

Now it’s a 90 minute film, and I appreciate that characters are, by necessity, going to be thin, but the problem is, because you barely get to know Stone and Murdock, it’s hard to really care for them.

The film is visually stunning, and I’ll admit that a couple of times it had my toes curling, but there were long periods where I was frankly a little bored. The narrative is simplistic and linear in the extreme as characters go from crisis X to crisis Y to crisis Z.

I appreciate the idea is that of a pared down exploitation movie, but the whole point of exploitation cinema is that they took a single hook, for the most part, because it was all they had a budget for. Cuarón has apparently cited Duel as part of his inspiration for Gravity, which is fine, but Duel was a cheap TV movie at the end of the day. Making an exploitation film on a big budget seems a waste of effort, and while it would be churlish to say I didn’t like Gravity, because it does have its moments and vaguely realistic space films are far too thin on the ground, I couldn’t help but be left with the felling that, gorgeous as it is, what I’d actually seen should have been, in truncated form, the opening sequence of a much broader film, almost as if someone had taken the pre-title sequence from a Bond film and stretched it to 90 minutes.

Oddly I think it is a film that’s going to grow on me, and as counterintuitive as it may sound, I think it’s a film that will prove far more enjoyable on the small screen, because you’re less likely to be left thinking, ‘is that it’ at the end.

For me this is a decent enough film elevated to high orbit (see what I did there) because of revolutionary effects and a lot of hype, neither of which are really enough for it to escape Earth’s gravitational pull for me.

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