Obviously, since the latest film from Alfonso Cuaron has not been released yet and neither have many others, I can’t really know Gravity will be the “best film of 2013”. With that said, now that we finally have some promotional material—after months and months of waiting—the odds are looking pretty good.
Visionary director Alfonso Cuaron has not directed a film in seven years; his last effort was 2006’s masterful (and criminally overlooked) Children of Men. This long absence hasn’t been for lack of trying; he wroteGravity’s screenplay—with his son Jonas—several years ago. The screenplay was acquired by Universal Pictures where it sat in development hell forever because it was considered too artistically challenging. Universal put it in turnaround, Warner Bros. grabbed it up (because they know awesome when they see it), and filming finally began in early 2011. The film originally had a November 2012 release date but was pushed back to October 2013, which left me ruined for weeks.
Gravity’s plot, much like its setting, is one fraught with artistic challenges. It’s basically a cast of two people: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. I don’t mean that in a “they’re the big stars, and everyone else in the movie are nobodies”; I mean they’re the only people who appear onscreen in the entire film (again, I haven’t seen the film, so I don’t know exactly how the screen time is distributed). Bullock will be occupying the screen, alone, for much of the film. She plays a medical engineer on a space shuttle mission; during a space walk, the shuttle is destroyed, and this leaves her stranded in space.
Be aware that this trailer may blow your mind:
Ain’t that some shit?
The studied film viewer will notice the plot shares some similarities with the too-little-seen Moon, starring Sam Rockwell and directed by Duncan Jones; or perhaps your first thought is to be reminded of the “Godfellas” episode of Futurama where Bender finds himself in a situation not unlike that of Bullock. It also happens to be very similar to a story I wrote circa 2004, but I’m pretty sure I’m the only person who knows about that. On top of that, it also has nothing to do with that John Mayer song; these are all good things.
What makes this such a promising film is simply Alfonso Cuaron’s name. Sure, it’s awesome that Bullock and Clooney are attached, but not since Michelangelo Antonioni has a director dared to let a film breathe as freely and as often as Cuaron. The films of both Antonioni and Cuaron demonstrate masterful use of the long-take: that is a scene in which the camera is allowed to roll continuously, without cuts, for an extended period of time. The long-take gives the film room to develop organically (or at least feel as though it has) and, when done well, delivers that coveted feeling of having lived within the world beyond the screen. A couple of examples: Antonioni’s celebrated film The Passenger and Cuaron’s aforementioned Children of Men. If you’ve seenChildren of Men, you’re aware of how remarkably well it puts the viewer into the movie. That prospect applied to the vast emptiness of space? Oh, be still my cinema-loving heart.
Gravity will hit you on the head October 4; and, really, if you haven’t seen Children of Men, Moon, or The Passenger, get on that.