“Gravity,” the much-hyped 3-D thriller starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, deserves the high praise it’s been garnering. Words like mind-blowing, amazing and magnificent seem apt for this visual and technical tour de force co-written, co-produced, co-edited and directed by Alfonso Cuarón (“Y Tu Mamá También,” “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban” and “Children of Men”).
Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a somber workaholic who has left Earth for the first time and thinks she could get used to the complete silence of space. She is on a Space Shuttle mission with breezy and jocular Matt Kowalski, a veteran astronaut (Clooney). As he floats, he chats with mission control (Ed Harris’ voice) about partying on Bourbon Street.
But suddenly the mission is aborted and the two are left to fend for themselves. With oxygen running out, they must find their way back home. Seeing “Gravity” in 3-D IMAX sucks you into the stunningly suspenseful story of their quest – you experience on a visceral level Ryan’s struggle to stay calm as she attempts to operate an abandoned Russian spacecraft, Matt’s finesse as he plucks out the bottle of vodka hidden near the control panel.
You might also puzzle, as I did, as to how this movie can look so astonishingly, so frighteningly, realistic and how Earth can look breathtakingly grand and tenderly beautiful. A slight letdown on the narrative front is the unspooling of Ryan’s clichéd personal story (we learn why she’s a workaholic). Also, it’s a little hard to buy Matt staying blasé, almost bored, throughout.
Ultimately, though, it’s almost impossible not to connect on some level with Cuarón’s contemplation of adversity, transience and spirituality.
‘Gravity’ opens today nationwide.