I’m not going to say much about Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity, there’s already been a lot written about it and there’ll be a lot more to come. And once awards season kicks in, it’ll be one of the films everyone is tipping. Absolutely right too.
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play two astronauts on a regular (if space travel can ever be regular) mission to give the Hubble telescope a bit of a wash and brush up. But things go a bit titsup when the debris from a Russian satellite destroys their shuttle and leaves them stranded, floating round space like a couple of helium balloons caught in a draught. We don’t know much about them, and surprisingly they don’t know much about each other. Matt Kowalsky (Clooney) is all wisecracks and broken hearts (he’s pretty much George Clooney in space to be honest) and Ryan Stone (Bullock) has her own secrets that means she keeps people at arm’s length. Of course when you’re on the loose in space, an arm’s length can be the difference between living and dying, so you have to let something in sooner or later.
Despite a few touches of sentimentality, this is gripping stuff and Bullock in particular is excellent. It’s testament to her performance and the braveness of Cuaron’s direction that you never question the reality of their situation. The power of Gravity is that from the minute the film starts, you’re up there with them, feeling all the bumps, breathless with fear and exhilarated by the emptiness and splendour around you. It’ll give you goosebumps and take your breath away.
See it on the biggest screen you can – the effects are so good that I completely forgot I was watching it in 3D until a few spanners flew towards me. But there’s more here than just clever effects, Gravity has heart and soul and will drag you along with it into that dark empty space at the back of our minds that we try to forget about.
I’ll own up straight away that I was underwhelmed by Sideways, so I wasn’t as beside myself with anticipation as some people were about Alexander Payne’s first film for something like seven years. This seemed to go in my favour though, as Payne himself asked the audience to forget about everything he had done before and come to this fresh. So fair enough.
It was la Clooney’s second red carpet of the festival, but with wrestler in tow and looking a lot more stunning than Mickey Rourke would in a frock, I steered clear. The Descendants is a simple tale of Matt King, a man dealing with some tricky revelations after his wife is left in a coma by a watersports accident (no sniggering at the back please). He has to reconnect with his daughters to find a way through the story that unfolds and the realisation that maybe he hasn’t been the best husband or father as well as dealing with a property issue that harks back to his ancestors and involves a whole field full of relations.
The story is deftly handled and adds more than a few laughs to the mix – not least from Nick Krause who plays Matt’s eldest daughter Alexandra’s best friend and gets some of the best lines. In fact, the strong cast (which I was delighted to see included Robert Forster) tackle their parts with warmth and raise the film from what could have been cheesy shmaltz into something much meatier.
It’s also fair to say that at one point Clooney does the best running ever seen in a film.
Standing within touching distance of Mr Clooney is always a good way to start your evening – especially when his wrestler girlfriend is nowhere in sight. The film didn’t disappoint either – it’s not going to set the world on fire, but it’s a smart, good looking political drama with glossy lead performances which might well see some action come award time.
Ryan Gosling, the current totty du jour, does a fine job in the CJ Cregg role of press secretary who finds himself embroiled in some Clinton-like shenanigans following an office shag. Clooney is suitably statesmanlike as the governor aiming for bigger things, and always good to see Philip Seymour Hoffman, one of my absolute favourite actors. I think my only gripe is that maybe not surprisingly, the female roles are a bit weak – I’d like to have seen a bit more from Jennifer Ehle in particular. But maybe that’s more a comment on the way politicians treat women…
Overall, Clooney proves himself a director who knows how to make a very watchable drama (you’ll see the words classy and sleek applied to this a lot) and one which, despite a bit of a predictable storyline, kept my attention right through. And made me want to rewatch West Wing, frankly.