Movies: "Gravity" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Gravity"
Movies: "Gravity"

Mexican writer/director Alfonso Cuaron blew me away with his dystopian action movie “Children of Men” back in 2006.  Now he’s done it again with the most realistic space adventure since Kubrick’s astonishing “2001: A Space Odyssey.”  “Gravity” works on every level, from the dramatic to the technological, and to see it in Imax 3-D is truly the way to go with this baby.

It’s basically a two-character performance.  George Clooney is the veteran space shuttle skipper Matt Kowalski, who spins shaggy dog tales back to Mission Control (the voice of Ed Harris, in a subtle tribute to “Apollo 13”) and plays country music on his two-way.  Sandra Bullock is science officer Ryan Stone, on her first space mission to do some repair work on the Hubble telescope.

But when the shuttle crew is suddenly caught in a deadly debris field, everything that can go wrong proceeds to do so.  Now Matt and Ryan must struggle for their lives by trying to make their way to the nearby International Space Station (a scientific impossibility, according to experts, but hey, that’s our storyline).  It too has been damaged and abandoned, and now there’s no longer a radio link to Mission Control.  

What happens next is one dire adventure after another, with Bullock the main focus of the film.  Her performance here is absolutely compelling, a tiny, vulnerable human being alone in the vastness of space.

Cuaron, who co-wrote the screenplay with his grown son Jonas, never eases up on the tension, or the mind-blowing visuals of the earth spinning below our stranded astronauts.  Using a host of revolving cameras and intricate wire work, he puts us right up there in weightlessness with them.  I loved the smallest details of this adventure, from the chess pieces floating past Bullock aboard the ISS and the ping pong paddle aboard a Chinese satellite, to the single tear that drifts out from Bullock’s eye at one low moment, reflecting her face.  And there are some huge set pieces here as well, including the fiery destruction of the space station.

The astounding production design is by Andy Nicholson, who also designed “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “Sleepy Hollow.”  The cinematography is by Emmanuel Lubezki, who worked with Cuaron on “Children of Men” and also shot “The Tree of Life.”  The music, never intrusive but always stirring, is by Steven Price, who composed the music for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.

“Gravity” is rated PG-13 for its scary situations, a horrific shot of a dead astronaut and some adult language.  

I can’t recommend it highly enough, and give it an A-Plus.