Gravity

Two astronauts get stranded in space.

Directed by Alfonso Cuarón

(PG-13)

****

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“This is what 3-D was made for,” said Stephanie Zacharek in The Village Voice. Proving that the overused technology has a place in a true work of art, director Alfonso Cuarón (Y Tu Mamá También, Children of Men) has turned this enabler of visual gimmickry into a tool for exploring “both wonder and despair”: From the moment we see a spacecraft drift into view in this “glorious” extraplanetary drama, we know that Cuarón will be alive to the full range of emotions that deep space inspires.

The film opens with an “amazing” 13-minute sequence, said Richard Corliss in Time. An engineer played by Sandra Bullock is making a repair on the outside of a space shuttle while a jocular colleague, made charming by George Clooney, floats nearby. Suddenly, debris from an exploded satellite rains down on them, killing their peers and casting them adrift in the vast, dark emptiness. From there on out, Cuarón “plays daringly and dexterously with point of view”: One moment you’re inside Bullock’s helmet, seeing the nothingness of space; then, “in a subtle shift,” you’re observing her reaction. “You may find yourself thinking, over and over again, ‘How the heck did they do that?’” said Owen Gleiberman in Entertainment Weekly. Not that there’s anything fantastical about the unfolding drama, since it’s built upon a scenario that’s possible given today’s space-travel technologies. The miracle of Gravity is that it eventually makes us feel as if we’re floating in space too.

“The casting of Bullock and Clooney is key to how effective the film is in jangling our nerves,” said Jon Frosch in TheAtlantic.com. “Their familiar movie-star faces, warm voices, and easy, teasing rapport soothe us in several harrowing moments, and make things even more disconcerting when their mission devolves into pure terror.” It’s just too bad that one of them eventually has to deliver a “distractingly sentimental” monologue. Still, Gravity never overreaches, and many viewers will appreciate its lack of pretension, said Todd McCarthy in The Hollywood Reporter. For others, its refusal to be “anything more than a thrillingly made, stripped-down suspense drama will relegate it to good-but-not-great status.” We’ll take it as is—and so should Bullock: It’s surely “the best film she’s ever been in.”

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