All-in-all, I’m not sure 2013 has been an incredible year for film. Sure, most of the Oscar flair has yet to make it into theaters, but when I was asked to pick my favorite movie of the year, I actually found it rather challenging. Of course, there have been some pretty good movies, but I can honestly say my Top 10 movie list hasn't changed all year - which is quite a rare occurrence.
However, there was one movie which I certainly wanted to be my favorite of 2013: 's Gravity. You see, I have a little bit of trouble judging whether Gravity really is as great as I like to think it is. The thing is, I'm massively prejudiced towards anything Alfonso Cuarón does. He could film paint drying for 90 minutes and I'd still want it to take home every film award going. Put bluntly, I am the worst person possible to review Gravity. I've been brainwashed, indoctrinated, programmed to love anything that plucky little Mexican sticks on celluloid. And I don't care.
I've spent many hours boring some poor intern in the pub with my lengthy one-sided discussions about Cuarón's 2006 dystopian thriller Children of Men. Now, I'm not a guy who's prone to outbursts of hyperbole, but Children of Men is perfect — despite the fact it's got in it. It's with this in mind that I became impossibly hyped for the release of Gravity. I watched the trailers over and over again, I marveled at their brilliance. I waxed lyrical about their use of music, the effects, the cinematography, until finally I was able to see Gravity on the big screen.
Now, Gravity isn't the best movie ever made by a long shot. It's not even nearly as good as Cuarón's previous work, and honestly I do not believe it deserves the much coveted Best Film Oscar. This is for one gaping reason. The movie is not a film in the traditional sense. In fact, when watching it on IMAX 3D, it's almost more akin to a fairground simulator than a narrative story. You whizz around space for a bit, and have a bit of chat to pass the time, then they're straight back to whizzing around space again. The story is lacking. The dialogue is lacking. The characters are, for the most part, mysterious entities which we know very little about. And all that is fine.
Whereas for most movies, these criticisms would spell disaster, for Gravity they do nothing of the sort. Gravity is the story of two astronauts stranded in space. That's it. They're stranded, and they don't want to be. It's a simple premise and it works without extensive exposition or heartfelt discussions between protagonists. For a moment, the movie did seem to be taking a dive down Sentimental Alley, however luckily Cuarón swerved that cliche by spectacularly thumping our space-bound survivors into the International Space Station.
Usually I'm the kind of person who hates movies which overly rely on special effects and action scenes (yes, I'm looking at you ), however for Gravity, this reliance on spectacle and visuals just seems perfectly apt. The Earth is a constant backdrop to the action, and it looks absolutely beautiful. Indeed, the film reminded me of a wonderful quote by US physicist and astronaut Loren Acton. I think it deserves being recounted at length:
Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I saw majesty - but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all the human drama and comedy. That's where life is; that's where all the good stuff is.
This quote basically sums up the role played by the Earth in Gravity. It acts as a constant dichotomy to the cold, harsh, unforgiving nature of space. It looks warm and cosy, recognisable and safe, close but also extremely far away. Fundamentally, it is this simple visual brilliance which elevates Gravity beyond the facile, soulless pyro-farts which are guffed out by Hollywood on a regular basis. It's not something which is particularly clever, artistic or revolutionary, but even though you know you're sitting in a movie theater, you still feel embraced by awe just as Loren Acton must have done — except you've also got popcorn and a massive jug of Fanta.
Take that experience and throw on a competent and functional story and what you get is a movie I’m rather proud to call my favorite of 2013.