(US - 2013)
Directed by Alfonso Cuaron. Written by Alfonso Cuaron and Jonas Cuaron. Cast: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, voices of Ed Harris, Phaldut Sharma. (PG-13, 91 mins)
Not since Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY (1968) has space looked as convincingly vast and felt so real as in Alfonso Cuaron's stunning GRAVITY, a triumph of CGI done right that unquestionably raises the bar in a way that very few films do in this era. The story itself isn't very complicated: Three astronauts on a spacewalk to repair a scanner on the Hubble Telescope are hit by debris from an exploded Russian satellite. One, Shariff (Phaldut Sharma) is killed along with the crew inside the shuttle. This leaves two survivors: veteran NASA rock star Lt. Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), who's a rookie on her first mission. The shuttle and the Hubble are destroyed and the cool, experienced Kowalski, forever telling the same exaggerated stories of his personal exploits to mission control in Houston (voiced by Ed Harris), gets serious and tries to keep Stone calm while improvising a plan to drift to the International Space Station with little booster power and with both survivors running out of oxygen.
CHILDREN OF MEN demonstrated, Cuaron is a master of long takes, or at the very least, seamless editing), we're introduced to the three astronauts going about their business--Kowalski and Shariff joking with each other and with mission control, Stone hard at work while battling the hangover-like lethargy of one's first time in space--the camera constantly floating around the actors and the structures, with Earth and open space lingering in the background. Cuaron and THE TREE OF LIFE cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (veteran cinematographer Michael Seresin is also credited with "additional photography") manage to make space look simultaneously vast and claustrophobic, and once communication with Houston is cut off (they continue to radio Houston "in the blind" in case they actually can hear them), there's almost no sound other than the dialogue, the actors' breathing, and the effectively eerie electronic score by Steven Price.