Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Film Review: "Gravity" (2013).

The tagline of the poster reads "Don’t let go”, which is exactly what this Summer’s epic Gravity is all about. This space drama/thriller film co-written, co-produced, and directed by Alfonso Cuarón. The film centers on a brilliant medical engineer, Dr. Ryan Stone, and a verteran astronaut, Matt Kowalsky, who work together to survive after an accident leaves them adrift in space on Stone's first and Kowalsky's last shuttle mission. Left completely alone - tethered to nothing but each other and spiraling out into the blackness of space.

Cuarón wrote the screenplay with his son Jonás and attempted to develop the project at Universal Studios, where Alfonso had co-written and directed Children of Men for Universal in 2006. The project was in development there for several years, but the studio placed it in turnaround. Warner Bros. acquired the project, which in February 2010, attracted the attention of Angelina Jolie, who had rejected a sequel to Wanted (2008). Later in the month, she passed on the project, partially because the studio did not want to pay her $20 million fee, which she had received for her latest two movies. She also passed on the project because she wanted to work on directing her Bosnian war film, In the Land of Blood and Honey (2011). In March, Robert Downey, Jr. entered talks to be cast in the male lead role. In mid-2010, multiple actresses including Marion Cotillard, Scarlett Johansson, Blake Lively and Natalie Portman tested for the female lead role. Finally Warner Bros. then approached Sandra Bullock for the role. In November 2010, Downey left the project. In the following December, with Bullock signed for the co-lead role, George Clooney replaced Downey. A big challenge for the team was the question of how to shoot long takes in a zero g enviornment. So the film had languished in development hell for four years, because the film's ambition - in terms of the cinematography, visual effects, and realistic "story atmosphere" of outer space - proved to be too challenging and Cuarón had to wait for the technology to be far more advanced and progressed to meet his vision; that was finally realized in 2009 with James Cameron's Avatar (2009). Eventually the team decided on using CGI for the space walk scenes and automotive robots for the interior space station scenes to move Bullock's character around. This meant that shots and blocking had to be planned well in advance in order for the robots to be programmed.

Cuarón, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber decided that they couldn't make Gravity as they wanted to by simply using traditional methods. So the film was filmed digitally. Principal photography on the film began in late May 2011. Live elements were shot at Pinewood and Shepperton Studios in the United Kingdom,with the visual effects supervised by Tim Webber at Framestore in London. The 3D was designed and supervised by Chris Parks. The majority of the 3D was created through stereo rendering the CG at Framestore with the rest post converted, principally at Prime Focus, London with additional conversion work by Framestore. Prime Focus's supervisor was Richard Baker. Filming began in London in May 2011. The film contains about 200 or so cutaways, which is significantly less than most films of this length. Most of Bullock's shots were shot with her inside of a giant mechanical rig. Getting inside said rig took a significant amount of time so the actress opted to stay in it for up to 9 to 10 hours day, communicating with others only through a headset. The setup was the basis of what Cuaron would describe as his biggest challenge, which was how to make the set feel inviting and non-claustrophobic as possible. The team attempted to do this by having a massive celebration when Bullock would arrive on set each day. They also nicknamed the rig "Sandy's cage" and gave it a lighted sign that reflected this.

The film stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as surviving astronauts from a damaged Space Shuttle. The performances were phenomenal and riveting. Bullock did an outstanding work in the film and it was a stunning and emotionally layered performance that shows once again why she is one of Hollywood’s most respected and popular actresses. Bullock spent six months in physical training to prepare for shooting while reviewing the script with Cuarón in meticulous detail. Cuarón said, "More than anything else, we were just talking about the thematic element of the film, the possibility of rebirth after adversity." They worked out how she would perform each scene, and her notes were included the pre-vis animation and programming for the robots. Their conversations covered every detail of the script and Bullock's character. "She was involved so closely in every single decision throughout the whole thing," Cuarón said. "And it was a good thing, because once we started prepping for the shoot, it was almost more like a dance routine, where it was one-two-three left, left, four-five-six then on the right. She was amazing about the blocking and the rehearsal of that. So when we were shooting, everything was just about truthfulness and emotion." James Cameron, best friend of Cuarón and a huge fan of the film, said Bullock's work is more impressive than the technology that supported it. "She's the one that had to take on this unbelievable challenge to perform it. (It was) probably no less demanding than a Cirque du Soleil performer, from what I can see." And of the result, he said, "There's an art to that, to creating moments that seem spontaneous but are very highly rehearsed and choreographed. Not too many people can do it. ... I think it's really important for people in Hollywood to understand what was accomplished here."

Gravity is arguably one of the most dramatic and horrendous spaceflight stories ever told. Cuarón lays off the manipulation to tell the hyper-real story of a shuttle mission going wrong in painstaking and lively detail. It’s absolutely thrilling the way that it unfolds with perfect immediacy, drawing viewers into the nail-biting suspense of a spellbinding story. To conclude, it’s a powerful story, one of the year's best films, told with great clarity and remarkable technical detail, and superbly acted with raw emotion and realism. It's easily Cuarón's best film.

Simon says Gravity receives:

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