"3-D Movie Viewers" J.R. Eyerman (1952)
First up is Denis Villeneuve’s Prisoners, which I saw opening weekend on a whim after gallery hopping. The story of the disappearance of two little girls on Thanksgiving Day and the lengths at which one of the parents is willing to go to find them is a very satisfying thriller. Both tense and creepy, it is well done from the twists and false leads in the plot to the grey look of the picture to the strong acting by the cast. Hugh Jackman (sans Wolverine claws) is good as are the always stellar Viola Davis and Melissa Leo but the big surprise is Jake Gyllenhaal. I’ve never had an opinion one way or the other about the actor but was very impressed with his performance as the twitchy, sleep-deprived detective trying desperately to solve the case. The film is long but well worth it.
Next was a Producer’s Guild (PGA) special screening of Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips. Based on a true-life drama (confession: I was ignorantly unaware of this event), it's the story of the hijacking of the cargo ship the MV Maersk Alabama by Somali pirates and of its captain, Richard Phillips,and his ordeal as their hostage. This is the type of film I would usually wait to watch on HBO but I found myself thoroughly engaged with the story. I liked Tom Hanks' portrayal (although he should have avoided doing a Massachusetts accent) and got caught up in the rescue attempt, especially after the arrival of the Navy Seals (played by real Navy Seals no less). After the screening there was a Q&A with the producers, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, who disclosed that the pirates in the film were all played by non-actors, which surprised me to no end, as they were so good.
Sandra Bullock in Gravity
But the best of the bunch was Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity, which I saw at another packed PGA special screening. Simply put, Gravity is a beautiful film. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney play astronauts making repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope when garbage from an exploded satellite comes hurtling into their path. It was honestly one of the most nerve-racking experiences I’ve ever had at the movies. For 90 minutes you are stressed out as one problem (read: disaster) after another occurs. And yet with all the nail-biting moments, the film has the most amazing Zen moments like when Bullock, having reached a station, removes her space suit and simply floats around and around in a fetal position. A friend of mine said the scenes where the astronauts float are like dance, and I agree. Speaking of Bullock, she is great as is Clooney who I think I would watch read the telephone book, to borrow a tired phrase. And a big cheer for casting Ed Harris as the voice of Houston. There’s something so reassuring about that man and besides, how could you make a space film without him?
Alfonso Cuarón and producer David Heyman joined in a Q&A afterwards and discussed the filmmaking process (a Light Box filled with LED bulbs was used to achieve the appearance of zero gravity) and challenges. If Cuarón doesn’t win an Oscar next year, I would be highly surprised.