It is hard to tell if the characters in Gravity knowingly paraphrase Star Wars when they say they “have a bad feeling” about their repair mission, 600km above Earth, but it proves to be the understatement of the year.
Houston, they have a lot of problems when those crazy Russians blow up their own malfunctioning satellite, without thought of the billions of pieces of shrapnel it creates in a storm cloud hurtling towards our heroes.
Dr Ryan Stone (Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (Clooney) are the space-walking astronauts caught outside in the rain of debris, which turns their shuttle into Swiss cheese and sends Stone somersaulting into the void of space, where no-one can hear her scream.
The adrift duo set out for the International Space Station, just as Stone’s oxygen starts to run out.
Clooney engagingly cruises just as much as his veteran mission commander does in his rocket pack. This country-music-playing space cowboy finds time to flirt with Stone despite being surrounded by imminent destruction. Captain Kirk would be proud.
Harris is heard but not seen as Mission Control, surely an inside joke as he played the Nasa chief who barked “failure is not an option” in Apollo 13.
However, this is really Sandra’s show and Cate Blanchett in Blue Jasmine has a new rival for the best actress Oscar.
Visual and digital trickery is just window-dressing unless actors sell it as real to the audience, but this cosmic girl convinces, from world-weariness to hopeless panic, from grief to blissful acceptance and from bemusement to a newfound dug deep will to live.
The audience holds their breath as much as the stricken astronauts when calamity makes way for disaster. Mexican director Cuaron choreographs fantastically long shots which let us absorb the beauty of earth and the horror of their predicament, enhanced by pin-sharp digital clarity and the most artistic use of 3-D yet.
Five popcorns out of five
Starring: Sandra Bullock (The Heat), George Clooney (The Descendants), Ed Harris (Pain & Gain).
Director: Alfonso Cuaron (Children of Men).
Screening: Reading Cinemas Queenstown.
– Otago Daily Times