|'as Ray Winstone once told us in a series of now-defunct cinema adverts, Gravity is a film about 'the experience''|
Gravity, as per the now well-read critical book on the film, is indeed a stunning piece of cinema, the realisation of a pretty ambitious and clearly complete vision by Alfonso and Jonás Cuarón, along with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki.
Told quite episodically - almost like videogame levels - the story details Ryan Stone's (Sandra Bullock) journey through space, after a mission gone slightly awry.
That's about all of the coverage the story of Gravity deserves. Script and plot are not the watchwords here. Instead, as Ray Winstone once told us in a series of now-defunct cinema adverts, Gravity is a film about 'the experience'. There is nothing that I have seen that is anywhere comparable to this film in many ways, nor is there a sequence this year, I would suggest, that will match the slow destruction-by-a-thousand-cuts sequence at around the half way mark, which sees a famous piece of space detritus obliterated, whilst Bullock wobbles around in the foreground. Cuarón the elder mixes majestic visuals (the opening sweep of Earth) with set pieces like the aforementioned, keeping us frequently within the freedom of space, only once (the final scenes) cramming us into a cabin unjustly. For the sheer fact of how unique it is, for just how daring it can be, Gravity is worth seeing, potentially multiple times.
But, whilst Gravity is a very impressive film, in several areas, there were two or three things that brought me out of the experience enough to convince me I wasn't watching something that was absolutely perfect. Firstly, considering Cuarón is making something so interesting, so new and advanced, he doesn't half like a good compositional cliché, most notable when Ryan hits her head and all sound disappears in favour of a high-pitched ringing, or the common-or-garden soaring strings pipe up during a resolute scene near to the finale. The story clichés are more forgiveable - they enable the brilliance elsewhere - but there's still distraction in Stone's recitation of a common trope, designed to send her on a familiar rebirth arc.
The other problem, for me, was Bullock's co-star George Clooney. Known as being a large presence; charming and heroic, Clooney here is a large presence; charming and heroic. If he wasn't here, if this was just Bullock's piece, talking to Ed Harris at the other end of a microphone, I could see Gravity being even better, even more daring than it is.
Even with these misgivings, this is a dynamic film, thrilling to watch and rewarding to experience. Cuarón's end product isn't perfect but his vision, and how far he's taken that vision, deserves to be noted, come the end of year awards.