While independent cinema still offers many positive surprises, the biggies from Hollywood rarely do likewise and – with the exception of the superhero movies that I’m addicted to because of a lifelong love of comics – quite often leave me extremely saddened that Tinseltown has allowed itself to be blandished beyond mediocrity by marketing suits and focus groups, leaving TV to provide us with more interesting viewing experiences.
So it was with much apprehension that I approached the IMAX at Cineworld on Dublin’s Parnell Street to see Gravity, the latest much-hyped piece of Hollywood hit-making. Just an hour-and-a-half later I left the cinema with my cynicism lying in a discarded heap on the floor. That unfamiliar expression on my face? Yep. A great big smile.
First, though, let’s get the gripes out of the way. George Clooney – who I adore – gets it far too easy here and basically acts like he’s still on the set of an Ocean’s movie. Then there are the ‘philosophical’ aspects of the film, which felt a little forced.
Those two very minor points aside, this was fantastic.
As someone who refuses to get excited about CGI and all that (the dull, predictable plot of the technically marvellous Avatar put paid to that), there’s simply no denying the impact Gravity has in terms of giving the viewer a great sense of what it’s like to be lost in space. What director Alfonso Cuarón has achieved is quite remarkable. And a good story, well told always helps.
This tale is basically a two-hander with Clooney and Sandra Bullock as astronauts who get caught in a deadly debris shower which results in them being cast adrift. Bullock pretty much carries the movie and does a fine job as Dr Ryan Stone, a somewhat introverted first-time space traveller who boards a shuttle alongside Clooney's gabby and vastly-experienced Matt Kowalski to repair the Hubble telescope.
Seeing Gravity on the big IMAX screen really is a treat, and although the Robinson Crusoe in Space tale is pretty straightforward (no flashbacks, which surprised me and showed that Cuarón has cojones) the story never lets up and Bullock is on-screen for virtually the entire movie.
And while it lacks the breadth and poetry of 2001: A Space Odyssey – it’s more an awesome three-minute pop song to Kubrick's symphony – that shouldn't take away from its unique vision and ability to take viewers away from the comforting surface of Earth to the mysterious space beyond us. I heard a lot about the technical tricks used to make Gravity look so impressive, but that’s the kind of detail that is irrelevant for most viewers, who will just wonder: ‘Is it any use?’ It’s nothing short of unmissable.
Visually, Gravity is the film cinema has been building up towards ever since the Lumière brothers terrified audiences with a filmed train well over a century ago. It’s not the greatest film ever, ever, ever – not that such talk matters – but it is a great cinematic experience that will leave you feeling at the very least entertained, and perhaps even inspired.