"Gravity" is a movie of elegant beauty and surprising emotional power.
See it once and you may be preoccupied with the heart-thumping action as Sandra Bullock tries not to panic and hyperventilate as she spins and ricochets through space.
See it twice (yes, a rare luxury) and you will be able to appreciate its themes of rebirth, of relinquishing real and tragic tethers, of conquering adversity and of repeating "I'm going to make it" and believing it.
"Gravity" stars Ms. Bullock as Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer on her first shuttle mission who confesses she feels "like a Chihuahua being tumble dried." Her fellow astronauts include easygoing Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), the veteran commander who modestly quips, "You're the genius up here, I only drive the bus."
4 stars = Outstanding
Sandra Bullock, George Clooney.
PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language..
They are on a routine assignment outside the shuttle when they're assaulted by a storm of space debris.
The shuttle is destroyed, Ryan is sent somersaulting through the inky abyss, Matt's favorite joke ("I have a bad feeling about this mission") seems like gallows humor, and the pair are left with a rapidly dwindling oxygen supply, no contact with Earth and perhaps no way to return home.
"Gravity" follows their fate for the next 90 minutes, presenting a world in which you never doubt for an instant that Matt is maneuvering by jet pack or Ms. Bullock weightless in the interior of a spacecraft where bolts, pens, licks of sparks or beads of tears float by.
The technical wizardry, which relied on computer animation, computer-generated imagery and tools such as a 12-wire rig and elaborate "Light Box" that cast realistic illumination on the characters, is likely bound for Oscar glory.
It's not by accident that Mr. Clooney's character refers to "Mother Earth" or evidence of life or connection is unmistakable no matter the distance. The theme of rebirth is reinforced when Ms. Bullock is shown from the side, spinning slightly, her knees bent, as if a fetus floating in amniotic fluid and attached by umbilical cord.
In almost every way possible, physically, mentally and emotionally, this is a more challenging role than the actress' Oscar-winning turn as Leigh Anne Tuohy in "The Blind Side."
Alfonso Cuaron, who wrote the screenplay with his son, Jonas Cuaron, certainly cannot be pigeonholed when it comes to directing. His credits include "A Little Princess," "Great Expectations," "Y Tu Mama Tambien," "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban" and "Children of Men."
This is a movie that demands the biggest screen possible, so try not to wait for its DVD or online arrival. It also makes the extra charge for the 3-D or IMAX worth it, although moviegoers prone to motion sickness might want to opt for 2-D.
The Earth has never looked more tranquil or beautiful, artistic swirls of blue and white with no rancorous divides when seen from above. The music by composer Steven Price is majestic and mood-setting, the bid for life unmistakable and the gravitational pull of the story undeniable.