It’s not often that the various technologies which undergird movie-making have the opportunity to become stars in their own right. But this extraordinary film by Mexican director Alfonso Cuarón demonstrates what can happen when gifted visual sensibility joins forces with the camera’s ability to morph human imagination into astonishing realism.
The movie’s premise couldn’t simpler; two astronauts working in space are accidentally cut lose from their tethers by flying debris and for the next hour and a half, their efforts to survive immerse the audience in a predicament as mesmerizing as it is terrifying.
Gorge Clooney plays Matt Kowalski, a veteran astronaut charged with shepherding newcomer Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) as she completes a series of scientific experiments outside a U.S. space station. When they find themselves adrift in the immensity of space, it’s Clooney’s cool professionalism that guides Bullock to her first perilous grasp on the hull of their spacecraft - - an initial step in what becomes a grueling test of physical stamina and mental toughness that provides Bullock with the best role of her career.
In over 40 films that cycle from chic flicks (Two if by Sea, The Proposal, While You Were Sleeping) to the kind of physical comedy made famous by Lucille Ball (Miss Congeniality, The Heat) to dramatic roles (Crash, The Blind Side), Bullock’s status as a Hollywood star often masks the diligence and professionalism she brings to her work, a fact made completely obvious here by her gripping performance. This is her movie and she doesn’t waste a single minute of it.
Cuarón, whose eclectic films include everything from children’s fantasy (Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Askaban) through biting social satire (Y Tu Mamá Tambien) to haunting futuristic drama (Children of Men) co-wrote the script for Gravity with his son Jonás and their storyline has been brought to life by famed cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki, who was responsible for the splendid visual look of Terrance Malick’s recent films Tree of Life and New World. He employs the 3-D format to fashion an appreciation of the cosmos it all its frightening, intimidating immensity.
Much like the alluring musical cadence of “Bolero”, Gravity concentrates on near endless elaborations of a single theme-and it does so with the same hypnotic fascination of Ravel’s masterpiece.
The Verdict? A visually stunning survival story and the only film since 2001: A Space Odyssey to deliver a palpable sense of what life beyond the earth’s atmosphere might be like.
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