Seeing Gravity, late, now comes with crushing expectations: it’s got more stars than the Hubble telescope, an IMDB ranking at 59th of all time.
To me, it exceeded them all. If you go – and you should – do see it in IMAX. Expensive? They could have charged me £100 and I’d have thought it worth the ticket.
CGI seldom impresses any more: we expect the impossible. But damn – George Clooney and Sandra Bullock are actually floating. Those space stations are actually exploding. It feels as real as that first train did to terrified early audiences.
The camera-work is vertiginously virtuoso: long, long takes (the first is 17 minutes; take that, Orson!), drifting and revolving as we follow the space-walkers in their suits, spinning round until we’re inside the helmet looking out with them. (As Ender’s Game observes, there is no “up” in space.) This is what happens when you take a great art-movie director like Alfonso Cuarón and give him a Hollywood blockbuster’s tool-box to play with.
David Hare is not a fan. In a talk I attended at the London Screenwriters’ Festival, he blasted: “Gravity is a film in which, from beginning to end, nobody says a single interesting thing. You think, ‘hang on, this film is at the cutting edge, you’ve spent $80 million for digital effects; it might be worth spending a quarter of that on someone who could write dialogue, not just spaghetti Bolognese coming out of their mouths.’”
I can’t agree. It’s simple, and it’s affecting. A little too patly “Hollywood” in its character arc perhaps – without spoiling anything for those who haven’t yet seen it, the emotional key-line is “you have to learn to let go” – but I was still literally on the edge of my seat throughout, I still cried at the end. Even if my tears didn’t drift away in shiny silver globules like Sandra Bullock’s.
Cuarón, incidentally, deserves major credit for sticking to his guns: the studio wanted Bullock’s character to be a man. Well, we’re up to $527,756,931 and still counting. With Bridesmaids having re-written the rules for female comedy (it’s the highest grossing of all Judd Apatow movies), this may be the defining moment when Hollywood finally catches up with the music industry, and realises that women can take the lead.
Though hopefully not naked and perched on top of a wrecking ball.