"If you are truly passionate about something, then there is no other way to live than pursuing and growing while fully engaged in your love." https://www.youtube.com/user/readwelllivebetter
Published October 20th 2013
I didn't know Sandra Bullock could do serious movies
I'm calling it now: Gravity is the best film of 2013.
Best' is a word that means little. It usually means 'my favourite' because there's no one standard of what the 'best' is. It's a school yard judgement used on internet forums and cheap advertising. When I say 'best,' I mean some of the most visually breathtaking, emotively genuine and wonderfully symbolic story with some of the most efficiently story driven structure I have seen, period.
It is a little known fact that George Clooney was actually the pioneer of 'Extreme Tug of War.' With your heartstrings.
It's just beautiful. The movie opens with three astronauts repairing the Hubble Telescope. It is eerily silent, the radio communication is muted as the jokes fly. They move like they're swimming. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) unscrew bolts, over the mythical majesty of the Earth.
The mission goes wrong. The Russians have shot one of their satellites and its debris comes flooding in like shrapnel from a silent grenade. The characters' shuttle is tossed as if it was a toy. It is a toy. Thrown by the churning storm of steel where debris whip by as if from some biblical apocalypse, the characters know they can do nothing in a universe where they are three human beings dwarfed by planets that form and break, suns that burn and combust and storms that could scar suburbs.
Yet they do. They claw something back. They are spinning in space, low on oxygen, their home gutted and bleeding and stamped out and they decide to live. Stone is the inexperienced panicking mission specialist reassured by Kowalski's cool head that they will make it to the International Space Station.
"... Alex, please tell me you see the baby symbolism. That's pretty blatant. I'm still impressed for some reason...
Everything that happens from that point is a race. Events are driven by necessity; the need to find oxygen, the need to find escape capsules, they need to find them now, before the debris orbits around the Earth and hits them again.
Structurally, the plot is quite simple. They need to get back to Earth after the tragedy in which is effectively an extended action scene. It works, the pace is relentless. Everything is easily understood, shot in extended single-shot sequences which the director is famously known for from Children of Men (also highly recommended.)
But if it was just amazing action then this movie would be just another action movie. Albeit, a visually spectacular one. Plot and action are entwined, the plot is the action. Gravity is ruthlessly economical, everything that happens seems to be energised by purpose, and again, it's all visually spectacular. You could hear the audience gasping.
I wonder how much of the audience are Transformers fanboys.
You need characters to engage with in effective narrative. You need an ordered perspective to prevent any film from disintegrating into unconnected images. The film asks the question of why we live and continue to live with Stone's character.
Stone lost her child to a tragic accident and she appreciates the silence of space. She has to dig deeply into her well of courage to continue, carried along by the momentum of events. She is a quiet, mild mannered woman turned panicking stuntwoman turned determined survivor. Her heart breaks, making unlikely contact with a home radio where she hears a child's voice.
She finds her courage. She finds her determination. She won't let all this shit that has hail-stormed across space stop her for the sake of her child or her comrades. This is as much an emotional journey as a physical one. I had shivers down my spine from seeing human defiance shaped from human melancholy. And in the end, this is what good movie making is about: to make us believe that the concerns of our film are our concerns, to make us think, to break our hearts and then mend them again with the love and courage and compassion and sacrifice which we aspire to as the noblest things possible in life.
For these reasons, Gravity is the best film of 2013. For its technical achievements, its visual theatrics, its crafted structure and its heart, Gravity is the best film of 2013. So, maybe, you'll forgive my usage of 'best,' which seems not to mean so little after all.