At the beginning of Gravity, we hear radio chatter between Nasa's hub in Houston and a group of astronauts on a routine space mission to repair a problem on a ship. Among the group are veteran Matt Kowalski, played by George Clooney, and Sandra Bullock's Ryan Stone, an engineer making her space debut and having a hard time keeping her lunch down.
Everything is going according to plan but then there's an urgent message from Houston - a Russian satellite has exploded and a shower of debris is heading straight for them. The mission must be aborted immediately. Intent on completing her task, Stone dallies just a fraction too long and the debris hits them full on. In just a matter of moments, there is no ship and Kowalski and Stone are left drifting in space, two tiny figures floating in an inky eternity.
Director Alfonso Cuaron puts you right in the middle of the action as we follow a desperate, discombobulated Stone, spinning helplessly in space, a point of view so realistic, I thought I'd lose my lunch, too. Gravity is simply beautiful to look at, a galactic ballet, if you like. Tears float like bubbles and flames curls like tendrils of golden ringlets, and all the while planet Earth is spread out before the astronauts, an awe-inspiring tableaux. Meanwhile, Jonas Cuaron's script ups the ante at every turn, keeping us hooked and fully invested in the story all the way.
Bullock's Stone is all too human, a character as adrift in life as she is in space. Meanwhile Clooney's Kowalski has just the right stuff, with a code of chivalry seldom seen in today's cinema.
I must admit, I had my reservations before seeing this film. "Not another CGI extravaganza," I thought. I've grown very tired of Hollywood's "let's blow shit up!" ethos where entire cities are destroyed with almost gleeful abandon. But Gravity is not a "boys with toys" movie. Instead Cuaron delivers a mature, intelligent film where special effects exist to service the story in a way that is both astounding and delightful. Interestingly, it has taken a Mexican director to serve up this classic slice of Americana where true grit and perseverance wins out.
In the same way Stanley Kubrick's 2001: a Space Odyssey became a science-fiction landmark, Gravity is sure to become a classic of the genre. A must-see.