"How is this a movie?" I thought. "What happens? How can they just sustain that for 90 minutes?" Then I factored in the heavyweight star power in the film and really couldn't guess what was going to happen.
All I knew, was that I was going to see that film as soon as possible.
It was a refreshing inner monologue to have because after most film trailers, even for films I am interested in still seeing, I know, pretty much what is going to happen in the film by the end and what kind of film it is. Gravity was different though. I didn't have a clue.
I am a big fan of Alfonso Cuarón's dystopian action drama Children of Men and he's the only man to make a satisfactory Harry Potter film so I knew, with the director, I was in safe and interesting hands. I am also an unabashed George Clooney disciple, believing the man to have pretty impeccable taste in scripts and projects to work on (seriously, listen to my 'When Clooney met the Coens podcast' he's my man crush). Sandra Bullock is a great comedienne and can pretty much raise the standard of any generic rom-com or action-com she takes part in. I haven't seen a lot of her "serious, worthy" films and I don't want to but "an interesting choice" I thought and a good fit with Clooney.
So what was going to happen in this mysterious space film?
Well, I am not going to tell you here. If you're looking for spoilers or plot points then you've come to the wrong place because it's best to go into Gravity fresh and ready for anything. What I can tell you is that it is one of the most breath taking, nerve shredding, tension sustaining, technically advanced and most complex directed film, I think, I have ever seen. I would need to watch it again, not because of any twisty turny story developments but to try and wrap my brain around just the level of organisation and unfathomable skill that went into creating this heart pounding 90 minutes.
It is a sublime magic trick of a film because, unlike the cartoonish nonsense of, say, Avatar or Abrams' Star Trek you just, quite reasonably, assume that Clooney, Bullock and Cuarón filmed the whole thing in ACTUAL SPACE. Cuarón realises that to wow and amaze with CGI and modern special effects, you don't need to go hog wild and create insane worlds and multi-headed monsters, just make a seemingly realistic and simple film, set in space. He did the same thing to similar wonderful effect in Children of Men. It's not what you see, it's what you don't realise you've seen. You take everything for granted in a Cuarón film and buy the world completely, it's only later that you stop and think "Wait?! how on EARTH did they do that?!"
In an age where everyone knows "oh yeah, they just draw that stuff on a computer, right?" (you know, like ANYONE could do it effortlessly) it takes real skill to hush those tongues and drag the audience, spellbound and quiet as amazed church mice, into your film.
There is a similar trick that the story pulls and that is that, with so few cast members, you know somebody, logically and presumably, is making it to the end of this film alive but that never holds you back from being on the edge of your seat, biting your knuckles or gripping the hand of your loved one next to you, every time peril rears it's ugly head.
The acting, too, is fantastic, with Sandra Bullock, especially, giving, to quote EVERY critic on the planet, the performance of her career. Hell! the performance of anyone's career! For the physical strain, it must have been to make this film, alone she deserves all the Oscars Billy Crystal can quickly polish and shove into the back of a Lexus. That's not to say Clooney's a slouch but it becomes pretty apparent why they cast him after just a few lines of dialogue, in a pleasing, welcome way.
Again, like Children of Men, the film is a mix of genres. It gave me more of a jolt and locked me rigid with tension more than any horror film of recent times, it has enough action in it to please any of John McClane's ardent admirers and it's also an achingly beautiful science fiction film, with critics throwing around 2001: A Space Odyssey comparisons like happy, pretentious puppies with a Kubrick designed squeeze toy. It may just be Clooney, the minimalist cast and an emotional theme of the film but referencing Solaris, in an attempt to seem smart and educated, might be slightly more apt actually.
It is in the emotional, character based thread of the film's narrative, though, that the first tiny, critical comment must be made because the slightly over-egged and obvious motivations of Bullock's character and the emotional journey she undertakes, is not as deep, fleshed out, or as relevant as the film thinks it is. I would argue it's the physical journey, and the mental struggle and dilemma that produces, that is a more satisfying and watchable than her emotional one. However, like all good sci-fi, there's lots of layers to the thing and you can enjoy what you want about it. I just didn't think the script or dialogue was particularly strong when dealing with a certain topic, that will remain unnamed here.
It's a film all about connections though, in more ways than one, and the ultimate connection we must make with our own lives. That being said, it's also, pleasingly, about hair raising stunts and explosions in space. Unusually, if I urge you to go see this film at all, it's for that, latter reason, the sheer, jaw dropping, spectacle of it all.