I went to see yet another movie starring Sandra Bullock and left feeling slightly sick but utterly elated. Why?
This masterpiece of modern cinema gives you a ninety minute roller-coaster ride that leaves you feeling like you’ve just been for a tumble in space. Simultaneously spine-chilling and jaw-droppingly beautiful you can’t help but sit on the edge of your seat for the entire ride. You shouldn’t miss it.
When I think of Sandra Bullock, I can’t help but think about a long and tedious list of movies that I certainly won’t miss. However, this list is punctuated by a few which were a huge part of my childhood. Speed (1994) was probably the first action movie I saw and certainly shaped the majority of my childhood games. It inspired me to build ramps and jumps for my toy cars, painstakingly recreating the timeless unfinished freeway scene. Then there was Speed 2: Cruise Control. Well, they don’t name films like that anymore do they? I still haven’t been on a cruise ship and I’m not sure I ever will. Thanks Sandra Bullock.
Of course at the time I didn’t give a damn who the actors in the films were. Only much later, when watching the Blind Side (2009) did I realise that the leading lady in Speed and Speed:2 was captivating me once again in this poignant rags-to-riches film about a homeless boy making it as an NFL player. It wasn’t the best movie I’d ever seen, but was certainly acted well enough to mean I had to choke back a tear or two. Therefore, it wasn’t surprising when Bullock was awarded both the Academy Award and Golden Globe for best actress for her performance in the Blind Side.
Since then, she’s been involved in some of middle-of-the-road projects including The Heat (2013), which thanks to a broken remote on a long haul flight, I had to endure twice. It was bad enough the first time so it’s understandable that it was with some trepidation that I took my date to the Hackney Picture House to watch Gravity.
As is usually the case when I decide to consume any kind of art, cinema or performance I hadn’t read any reviews and hadn’t even seen the trailer. All I had to go on was the frenzied excitement from friends who unanimously stated this was 3D cinema in its finest and the knowledge that the cast consisted of only two names, one of which was George Clooney. Who is awesome. Clearly. The other was Bullock, who I knew deep down had the potential to impress, but to be honest, I was expecting to hate her.
Within seconds of the curtains opening I realised I was in for a true visual feast. The great thing about this movie is that it’s not set in the future. It’s not Sci-Fi. There are no talking robots or time travel. No warp drive, no cryogenics. No. This film is very much set in the present day. It opens and sets the scene with a fairly generic space walk. The acting and cinematography immediately draw you in. Assuming you can suspend your disbelief at some of the plot back story, you feel completely captivated. This is one of those films where you don’t feel like you are simply watching, rather that you are truly experiencing.
Ok, some reviewers have lambasted the science behind the movie, but they might be missing the point. The idea here isn’t to demonstrate the technology behind space exploration. It’s not a shallow action movie, nor is a deep space fable. What it is, is perfect and engrossing cinema.
The plot is pretty cliché. I won’t go into the finer details, but the gist of it is that disaster strikes the astronauts and Bullock and Clooney are left stranded in space with no obvious route home. What ensues is an allegory about some the most difficult of human struggles, grief and finding our purpose in this vast universe. Ok, it’s a little in your face, even I was able to spot it on first viewing, but nevertheless that is what the film is about and boy, does it do it well. When a floating teardrop hits the lens after a particularly harrowing scene, you can’t help but be struck with a tsunami of emotion.
It’s not just pretty visuals that set Gravity apart. With a musical score so perfect you barely notice until it’s absent. The soundtrack shuns percussive instruments in favour of roaring the crescendo of strings and the hauntingly melodic organ punctuated by cuts to complete, deafening silence so abrupt you are physically jolted you in your seat. The soundtrack to this film is absolutely incredible.
The script, yes it could be better, and the damsel in distress aspect had me in fits of rage for a couple of days afterwards but this doesn’t detract from the fact that Bullock gave a magnificent performance, carrying almost the entire movie on her shoulders. Clooney’s role was brief but charismatic and created just the right balance between the two leads to be believable and charming.
The 3D effects weren’t overpowering, instead they complemented the film’s sense of scale and realism. The fire effects were frankly rubbish, and looked like something that could have been ripped from a nineties Speed movie, but aside from that I was stunned by the beauty and detail captured by the cameras.
I think the best cinema affects you on numerous levels and urges you to re-examine it. Gravity for me, although there is none in the film, definitely has that pull. I was left awestruck and emotional, inspired and humbled by the human spirit and left wondering how on earth they filmed it all. Granted, the 3D was a little stomach churning and left me reeling with dizziness at times, but all in all, it’s a feast of modern cinema and will probably become our generations Space Odyssey.
If you still haven’t seen it, go and find the biggest, noisiest cinema you can and watch it immediately.
Love and mayhem,
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