We all love ‘best film of the year’ lists. Even though we know that they’re at best highly subjective, and at worst shameless linkbait.
You know that any ‘best film of the year’ list that I made would inevitably be skewed to the kind of movie where Samuel L Jackson shows up half-way through the credits. I’m currently praying that the upcoming Freddie Mercury and Elton John biopics both have Sam popping up at the end to say “Hi, I’m Billy Ocean and I’m here to talk to you about the Variety Club of Great Britain Initiative.”
But I’m willing to gamble that Gravity will be on everyone’s ‘best film of the year’ list. Imagine Castaway meets Apollo 13. Only a dozen times better than both. The sheer craft of the thing — cinematography and effects — is an absolute wonder. The 3D works beautifully. The soundtrack, which grows from chilly outer-space electronics to a soaring, rousing cathedral of orchestration, is one of the stars of the film. And the performances in what is essentially a two-hander are just perfect.
George Clooney is one of those unflappable all-American heroes, filled with the Right Stuff. Sandra Bullock, as orbital castaway Ryan Stone, is smart and capable and just vulnerable enough for us to identify with her.
One of the things I liked about Stone was that her gender’s irrelevant. Sure she shimmies in and out of her spacesuit more times than Barbarella and Ripley put together but if you put a guy in that rôle, you wouldn’t have to change a word of the script. It’d be a special guy that matched Bullock’s performance though. She’s going to need a whole new shelf for all the awards she’ll be getting.
I can’t say much about the plot, because it’s a more or less non-stop thrill ride that depends on nobody knowing what’s going to happen next. You know how people say ‘I was on the edge of my seat’ to express the idea that the film was quite exciting? I actually was on the front edge of my seat for at least half of Gravity’s running time. I exhausted myself willing our marooned spacemen (space-people?) to succeed in their seemingly impossible attempts to survive.
This is technically a science fiction film, in that there never was a shuttle mission where this stuff happened, and now that the shuttle fleet has been retired there never will be. But it feels real. The physics seem right and if there are one or two nicely-timed coincidences that drive the story along they are at least things that could happen right now in our world. Or, at least, a few miles above it.
In short: I loved this film. I hope you see it. Because I’m pretty sure if you do, it’ll be on your ‘best film of the year’ list.