Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Gravity is how the film makes the infinite vastness of outer space feel so intimate.
This science-fiction thrill ride manages to give viewers an immersive experience that conveys what it’s really like to look down on the Earth’s surface from miles above.
The film is bursting with originality and is such a marvelous technical achievement from director Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men) and his team that it becomes easier to overlook the narrative flaws.
It’s an ambitious two-character piece that takes place aboard a space shuttle nearing the end of its mission, which is never really described nor is it relevant. Matt (George Clooney) is an experienced astronaut whose sense of humor puts the rest of the crew as ease, especially Ryan (Sandra Bullock), a medical scientist on her first voyage into space.
While on a routine spacewalk, however, they are notified by a NASA official (voice of Ed Harris) that a satellite collision has caused a field of debris to fly in their path. During the ensuing chaos, communication is lost and the crew is decimated, leading to an against-the-odds struggle for survival.
The script by Cuaron and his son, Jonas, tends to stretch its premise to feature length with a series of contrivances and implausibilities in the second half. Yet those can be forgiven thanks to consistently genuine white-knuckle tension, along with a sympathy for the characters and their plight that is established early on.
The opening sequence is quite impressive, and Cuaron keeps his camera moving and his visual perspective changing as the characters move from one obstacle to the next, fighting for survival amid slim hope of a rescue.
Gravity offers a harrowing look at astronauts, and how their jobs involve such unpredictability with slim margins for error. At the same time, with the help of cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (The Tree of Life) and a handful of stunning 3D special effects, it appreciates the peacefulness and tranquility of outer space, and how so few humans will ever experience such breathtaking images.
Of course, it helps that Clooney and Bullock are each in top form. That means that the film isn’t all about what goes on outside those airtight suits, but what’s inside them as well.
Rated PG-13, 91 minutes.