Director: Alfonso Cuarón
Studio: Esperanto Filmoj
Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
Look, let’s be honest. Even true believers, dyed-in-the-wool, do-or-die movie lovers can come to a dispiriting, soul-deep realization that they would rather eat dirt than sit through yet another formulaic Hollywood movie. And, sometimes, voilà, it’s possible to walk out of a theater gobsmacked, shaken and renewed by something fantastic.
Gravity is the first movie in seven years from director Alfonso Cuarón (Children of Men) and it comes not a moment too soon. Moving Cuarón to the very front rank of directors, Gravity is brave, technically groundbreaking, entertaining, heart-in-your-mouth scary and deeply, even profoundly, moving. It’s a wow of a moviegoing experience.
Cowritten by Cuarón with his son Jonás Cuarón, Gravity runs a taut 88 minutes and has the simplicity and grandeur of a dream or a nightmare. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play astronauts partnered on a space voyage: he a tried-and-tested NASA pro, she a skilled civilian engineer and relative newbie. In no time at all, terrible, visually spectacular calamities gang up on them and our heroes are left stranded in a silent, disorienting, beautiful void. Often floating weightless, untethered, fighting despair, battling loss of oxygen and flying debris and flooded by painful memories, the characters are drawn with a precision and played with an accessibility that make them universal. Clooney is not only well cast but also graceful and solid as a cocky, calm space cowboy.
But this is Bullock’s show. In the face of catastrophe and peril of such visceral impact and magnitude, she is stripped down, vulnerable, frail, determined and pretty damn wonderful. With many of the astonishing shots and vistas filmed from her point of view—even at times from inside her helmet—she draws us in and makes us care so deeply that it’s painful. Cuarón and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki use 3-D majestically, poetically. With this one film, they elevate 3-D to an art form. The trailblazing special effects, the canny use of sound, the long, mesmerizing takes make the film seem so immersive, it feels not as if we’re with Bullock and Clooney but that we are them. Is it a masterwork? Time will decide. Right now, though, Gravity sure feels like one.