After recently posting my top 5 films of 2013, a couple of people asked why I hadn’t included ‘Gravity’ on the list – I hadn’t seen it. I watched ‘Gravity’ last night and everything I’ve heard is correct, it’s an undeniably great film. Gravity knocks you on your ass in the first 10 minutes and tells you to buckle up for the ride, and it delivers on this over and over again. The scope and ambition of the film is amazing, held together by a deceptively intricate plot. And the way the story is delivered – there’s no glashback, no blatant exposition, it’s a straight up story starting from A and going to B, allowing the viewer to get drawn into it’s complexity and intruigue.
Everything about ‘Gravity’ is well done and the performances are pitch perfect. It’s amazing to think Sandra Bullock was the goofy damsel in distress in ‘Speed’ and the tomboy in ‘Miss Congeniality’ and now she’s here. Her Oscar winning performance in ‘The Blind Side’ was well deserved, and I suspect she’ll be up for another for ‘Gravity’. The fact that we know her from these different roles yet she is so totally believeable as the doctor in ‘Gravity’ is testament to her ability. She conveys emotion from hopelessness to happiness without ever over-doing it or losing character authenticity and is a big part of the film’s success (I’ve read that Angelina Jolie and Natalie Portman were both, at different times, attached to ‘Gravity’ – I can’t imagine either being as good as Bullock is). Clooney too is great as the in-control veteran.
One thing I’d noted when talking to people about ‘Gravity’ is that no one tells you much about it. No one explains the storyline or what happens – I think that’s because it’s an almost un-spoilable film. Like, I could detail the whole film for you, scene by scene, right here, and it would make no difference. Explaining it will not do it justice, telling you about it won’t make any difference. ‘Gravity’ is a film that needs to be experienced, probably multiple times. In this, director Alfonso Cuaron has created something that underlines why cinema is still so vital. It’s a work of art, from start to finish, and will capture the imagination of viewers for years to come. The soundtrack, the set design, the detail, the cinematography – everything is right in ‘Gravity’. It’s a near perfect film.
And I love that Ed Harris was back working at mission control, too.
Here it comes – we’re nearing year’s end so get ready to see list after list of top tens. Rather than fight it, I’m going with it (though I’ll only go five to save you from fatigue) – here are some of the best films I saw in 2013:
I’ve written about Mud briefly here, but definitely Mud was my favourite film of the year. It was released in 2012, but only made it to Australia in 2013, so I’m counting it. For people who think traditional film storytelling is being pummelled into submission by visual effects, a never-ending number sequels and movies based on board games, you should check this out. McConaughey is great in this.
The most tense, gripping film I’ve seen this year was Prisoners. The story was clever and compelling, forcing the viewer to question not only which character was behind the crime, but what lengths would be acceptable to obtain the answer (reminded me of the also excellent ‘Unthinkable‘ which is definitely one to check out also). Jake Gyllenhaal and Hugh Jackman are so good in this movie – Jackman’s best performance ever, in my opinion (yeah, he is Wolverine, but in a dramatic sense, this is a better performance).
3. The Kings of Summer
So good. I’d read some of the buzz about this film and it definitely lives up to everything promised. As a comedy, it’s pitch perfect and the dramatic elements are weaved through, so you’re not quite sure which way it’s going till the conclusion. The lead actor, Nick Robinson, is someone we’re going to see a lot more of in future films, no doubt.
4. Captain Phillips
I only saw this recently, but it’s right up there with the best things I’ve seen for the year. Going in, I wondered whether they would be able to sustain the tension of a whole film (as this is based on a true story), and early on I had my doubts (Tom Hank’s accent seemed odd in the first scenes and the pace takes a moment to kick in), but it’s an amazingly well done film. Director Paul Greengrass knows momentum and story has become such a good film-maker. Captain Phillips continuously raised the stakes as the film moves along and Hanks gets better and better, till the final scenes, where he delivers five minutes of pure acting brilliance.
5. Monsters University
When I head Pixar were doing another ‘Monsters’ film, I thought they might be coming off the rails. ‘Brave’ was good, but not up to their usual brilliant standards and ‘Wreck it Ralph’ the same, entertaining, but just some flaws that you usually wouldn’t get from the perfectionists at Pixar (note: a reader has corrected me on this, Wreck-it-Ralph is not Pixar). The first time I saw Monsters Inc, I thought it was okay, but in subsequent viewings (I have two young kids, I’ve watched it a lot) I’ve come to really like it. Even if you stop seeing it as a Monsters film, as a college film, it’s right up there with the best. And I loved the message in the end, that life is what you make of it. Great film.