Josh Davenport’s review published on Letterboxd:
“2001: A Space Odyssey” is possibly the greatest film of all time. I’m amazed by the creative ambition of this film and how they actually succeeded with everything they set out to. I can’t wrap my head around the scope of what this film accomplishes and all that it did to change filmmaking forever. I’ve never seen another film like this, in any way. The whole time I was watching I was faced with thoughts of “How did they film this?” and “What in the fuck does any of this mean?” And that is the best kind of reaction that I can have to a film. Some of this movie I understand and some I don’t think I’ll ever understand, but I really love that. This film is an experience, and it’s one that can’t be replicated by any other attempt and is one that is as close as you can actually get to what happens in the movie without being there for yourself.
This film takes all of the greatest parts of Stanley Kubrick’s style of filmmaking and creates the best version of him as an auteur. I’ve never seen a Kubrick film and not felt a sense of wonder at the themes in his films, the way he explores them, and the way that he is able to manipulate the audience into feeling the way that he wants them to feel. The Dawn of Man sequence that opens this film could be a feature length movie by itself, so fascinating in the way that the Apes interacted with each other and evolved until they met with the monolith. The visuals of the scenes in space and the last 30 minutes of the film were so beautiful and terrifying, inspiring awe with some of the greatest shots I’ve seen in film. HAL 9000 is one of the greatest movie villains ever, the scene where he sings the song “Daisy” is one of the most chillingly creepy I’ve seen. The way that Kubrick almost prophetically warns us of the dangers of AI is pretty interesting in itself.
I think that this film easily has the greatest score of all time. It’s so recognizable and iconic but it’s also used so perfectly. Anytime you hear music in this film it sets up the scene in such a specific way, so much so that when you hear nothing but silence it’s so meaningful and impactful. The enhanced audio effects in general are a huge part of what makes this film work, from the silence, to the score, to the breathing and the footsteps and the noises that the ship makes. I think this film also has the greatest set and prop design in all of film, with really amazing and detailed sets that make you feel immersed in the future and props that seem like genuine items that should or will exist in the future.
Throughout all that this film manages to be, it excels the most when it operates as an examination of human identity and what it means to be human. The scene that describes this best is when the characters aboard the Discovery are discussing whether or not HAL actually feels emotions or if he is just replicating his observations. Looking at HAL and his emotions and motivations, compared to the apes from the beginning of the film, compared to Bowman’s experiences in space at the end of the film, we really get a look at the spectrums of human emotion and actions. Seeing the perseverance of the human spirit with Bowman on his journey to Jupiter, seeing the potential for corruption and deceit in people with HAL, and seeing the base level of survival and curiosity with the Apes, “2001: A Space Odyssey” identifies itself as more than just a space epic, but as a subtle examination of what makes us human, and thus solidifies itself as one of the greatest films of all time.