by Laurie Coker
As a claustrophobe, I’ve never fuss over wide-open spaces or high places, but rather, I hyperventilate over elevators and low ceilings – bungie-jumping, no problem, tall buildings, not an issue, the wide- blue underwater realm, love it and space? Until I watched director Alfonso Cuarón’s new film Gravity, starring Sandra Bullock, George Clooney and Ed Harris, I loved the idea of exploring and drifting nearer to stars, but Cuarón’s, extraordinarily rendered, emotion packed, IMAX 3D experience cured me of any desire to experience the weightlessness and silence of space.
The film opens with a crew of three, veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney), on his final space venture, Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone, a rookie, and gifted science officer, and a faceless fellow specialist. Stone, feeling the effects of motionlessness, works to restore a grid of sorts to working order, but a call from “Houston” (Harris) warns them of debris from a mistakenly destroyed satellite. Within minutes, all hell breaks loose at space station central, leaving the Kowalski and Stone tethered together – after several visually, stunning, emotionally traumatic moments. They lose communications with Mission Control. Kowalski has a plan, but with only ninety minutes until the next debris strike, timing is tight. At this point, if not from the opening sequence, they and the audience experience a full-throttle, emotional and physical thrill ride.
Remarkably imagined by Cuarón, who penned the script with brother Jonás, Gravity, showcases the brother’s writing talent and Alfonso’s amazing affinity for visual effects heart-pounding apprehension. But beautiful Bullock’s psychologically charged performance causes breath-holding and white knuckles. Sprinkles of humor from Clooney’s seasoned Kowalski eases tension at key moments, allowing for labored gulps of breath, but in IMAX 3D (mandatory, I think), we never lose sight of tribulations faced and the feel of utter desperation, couples with tiny rays hope.
Gravity is HUGE in scope, in style, in beauty, in realism and in its ability to take audiences places we only thought we seen before. The story and its message, while simple, are never lost and the genius of Cuarón demonstrates space in a monumentally memorable experience, with all its beauty, mystery and terror in a way that will keep people talking and filmmakers frantic to go beyond perfection. It earns an A+ – a resounding A+.