Peter Travers: ‘Gravity’ is a Thing of Transcendent Beauty and Terror
The space thriller/drama film stars Sandra Bullock in the performance of a lifetime
[easyreview cat1title = Gravity cat1rating = 5]
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney
Directed byÂ Alfonso Cuaron
Sandra Bullock, in the performance of a lifetime, spends most of this wondrous wallop of a movie lost in space, alone where no one can hear her scream. And because director Alfonso CuarÃ³n, a master of pure cinema, puts us right up there with her in glorious 3D, you breathe like she does, feel like she does and panic like she does until, after 90 minutes of gulping, gasping suspense, you start seeing with blinders off. Like she does.
A great movie is hard to define. So letÂ GravityÂ do it for you. With enthralling detail, it offers thrills, humor, dazzle, disaster, poetic vision and mythic reach. Stanley Kubrick’sÂ 2001: A Space OdysseyÂ set the bar for philosophical exploration of an unknowable universe by gazing outward. With deceptive simplicity,Â GravityÂ looks inward at something closer at hand but just as profound: the intricacies of the human heart.
Bullock plays Ryan Stone, a NASA engineer on her virgin voyage into space. Her mission is to help repair the Hubble telescope. This rookie looks ready to puke inside her helmet. Her guide is Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), a charm-boy astronaut who’s seen it all and has a joke for all he’s seen. Clooney takes a small role and runs with it, his Buzz Lightyear banter working to defuse tension. “You’re the genius up here,” he sasses. “I only drive the bus.” The buoyancy of these early scenes, cutting through the eerie silence of deep space, is in marked contrast to the horror that develops when a Russian satellite destructs and sends debris hurtling toward the shuttle. That leaves Bullock and Clooney to defy gravity and death nearly 400 miles above the looming Earth.
Don’t let anyone spoil what happens next. Just know that CuarÃ³n, the gifted cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and visual-effects wizard Tim Webber are trailblazers whose imaginations accept no limits. The script, by CuarÃ³n and his son JonÃ¡s, occasionally drifts into dangerous emo territory, but the film’s images speak with heart-rending eloquence. CuarÃ³n’s artistry is evident in films as diverse asÂ Y Tu MamÃ¡ TambiÃ©n,Â Harry Potter and the Prisoner of AzkabanÂ (the third and best of the Potter series) and the indisputably brilliantÂ Children of Men. The Mexican-born CuarÃ³n is a true visionary. In tandem with the Bullock tour de force ”“ she blends ferocity and feeling into a triumphant, award-caliber portrait of grace under pressure ”“ he turnsÂ GravityÂ into a thing of transcendent beauty and terror. It’s more than a movie. It’s some kind of miracle.