'Gravity' exerts a profound emotional pull
05:00 AM, Oct 04, 2013
Gravity is the kind of enthralling, all-encompassing, giddy cinematic experience that surfaces once in a blue moon.
At a key moment in this eloquent space thriller (* * * * out of four; rated PG-13; opens Friday nationwide), Sandra Bullock, playing a medical engineer on her first space mission, faces impending peril with a complicated blend of resignation and enthusiasm: “It’ll be one hell of a ride.”
It’s also an astute assessment of a spectacular movie that balances action and suspense with contemplation and emotion.
The telling of this simple tale of survival required cutting-edge technology, but we don’t notice the bells and whistles: They’re on hand to immerse us in an unforgettable personal story.
Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and Ryan Stone (Bullock) are on a mission to install a new scanning system on the Hubble telescope. She’s serious and focused. He’s blithe and entertains Houston’s Mission Control with jokes and well-worn stories. Then an alarm sounds.
A cloud of space debris collides with their spacecraft. Suddenly, Stone and Kowalski are lost in space. Tethered together, they bob and swoop,
Director Alfonso Cuarón has crafted a bracing masterpiece that blends visual panache, top-notch acting, deft writing and taut pacing.
Bullock is an adept and soulful action hero who brings remarkable humanity to an arduous role. Clooney also is convincing, projecting warmth and ease in an understated performance. He becomes a mentor to Stone, guiding her through her darkest hours.
As conceived by Cuarón who directed Children of Menand Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and his son Jonás, the spare dialogue is deeply evocative.
No film since 2001: A Space Odyssey in 1968has captured such a vivid reality outside Earth’s gravitational pull. And no film has so artfully interwoven 3-D technology.
Every detail seems meticulously researched, from distant shots of a glimmering Earth to sounds heard only from inside spacesuits. Computer-generated imagery, animation and live action are seamlessly blended. The camera rotates in long, continuous shots, including a wondrous 13-minute opener. Camera angles heighten the vastness at one moment and claustrophobic containment the next.
A masterful storyteller, Cuarón explores isolation, physical and emotional. Early on, when Kowalski asks Stone what she likes best about space, she responds: “The silence.”
It’s a statement that will come to haunt her.
Gravity is an extraordinary force to be reckoned with, a majestic, innovative, heart-pounding spectacle imbued with poetry and profundity.