It’s been an awfully long time since I’ve sat down to write about a film, not because I haven’t been seeing any, but rather that I’ve found generally that quality seems to have diminished somewhat and I find it more difficult to be enthused about the state of modern film. However, Bladerunner 2049 isn’t a normal film for me, in some ways this is a bigger film event than the Star Wars prequels / sequels, the stakes being higher and the spate of attempts to follow classic films being littered with well-intentioned failures. Bladerunner was the first film I can remember getting a grip on me, I couldn’t quite understand its strange other worldliness. Subsequent revisions have only deepened its mystery, its allure. Bladerunner always felt different.
A genuinely smart action film smack bang in the middle of the summer season? Check! A real sense of craft on behalf of everyone involved in the film? Check! The best female action protagonist for longer than I can remember (maybe even Aliens)? Check! The new textbook on how to reboot a long dead franchise? Check!
You cannot fault the scale of the ambition.
gravity; noun. 1 Physics the force that attracts a body towards the centre of the earth, or towards any other physical body having mass. the degree of intensity of gravity, measured by acceleration 2. extreme importance; seriousness: crimes of the utmost gravity 3. solemnity of manner: has the poet ever spoken with greater eloquence or gravity?
Alfonso Caurón’s Gravity arrives on a wave of hype and critical applause that for once justifies the end result – Gravity is a genuine masterpiece, not in the urgent, timely manner that many modern ones take but in its commitment to the bolting the old fashioned principles to cutting edge technique. What’s more surprising it this is the first film where the 3D is not an additional tool in the filmmaker’s toolbox but an integral part of the narrative, not enhancing the story but telling it. The 3D does not add to the viewing experience, the 3D is an essential part of the viewing experience. Gravity is a genuine game changer, visually astonishing, thematically relevant, a rare film led by a woman with mass appeal, a film by adults and for adults. That last fact alone means it is worthy of your time, but it’s genuinely more than that.
Warning, here be mild spoilers (and I’m writing this from the memory of having seen it about a month ago – work picking up again equals less on blog…). A couple of years ago I commented that the first of the Star Trek reboots was a close to perfect summer fodder as possible. The directors follow up – Super 8 – was even better, a glorious throwback to summer films of old (and the film-making values of old as well). So expectations for a Star Trek sequel were high, could Abrams live up to his previous efforts again?
It’s just perfect.
Now this is refreshing, a B-movie proud of its origins, offering no social commentary, nor a desire to be anything other than pure schlock cinema. In accepting its limitations rather than fighting against them it instead delivers in spades – this is by far the most thrilling, visceral film for years, an absolute roller-coaster of a film that sets it stall out early and then continues to push the limits of common sense and decency in a way we just don’t normally see. It’s the sort of film you watch mouth open at the sheer balls of everyone involved, but with a hand over your mouth to stifle the comments you’ll inevitably make at the toll that it must have had on the stunt men involved.
Super 8 arrives in the usual cloud of JJ Abrams of secrecy that has surrounded his previous projects, fortunately once again this secrecy only increases the joy of the final product – the less you know about the structure of the film beforehand the better because of the sheer joy that comes from seeing something so lovingly crafted unfold before you. Abrams is up to his usual tricks of letting you think you know what film you’re going to get before pulling the rug from under you – yes there’s an alien involved but come the end of the film that isn’t what you care about, for Abrams story and characters remain king.
Remember when Disney used to be fun?
Fortunately, so does Disney finally.
The past few years have given cause to re-evaluate George Clooney as an actor rather than just a movie-star and those that continue to doubt should take the time to see Up In The Air not only to prove that – yes, he really can act – but also because it’s one of the best comedy-drama films to come out for a long time, not only because of Clooney (who is the stand-out in the cast) but because everyone seems committed to delivering something that actually has something to say without being preachy.