Director: Alfonso Cuaron
Following a prolonged absence from the director’s chair after the remarkable Children of Men, Cuaron has finally returned with Gravity and the result demands the use of descriptors like “astounding” and “groundbreaking.” As a visceral viewing experience and space simulation, there’s simply never been anything like this before. Continuing the long-take style he’s developed over his last few movies, Cuaron has created one of the most immersive cinematic experiences ever achieved. Watching the film in IMAX 3D is so intense that audiences can expect to stumble out of the theater in a daze if they are able to somehow pry their iron-gripped hands away from the armrest.
The plot is one of pure simplicity. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play a pair of astronauts whose mission is rudely interrupted by a satellite explosion that destroys their ship and leaves the duo floating helplessly in space. That happens in the first 10 minutes or so. The following 80 are a white-knuckle attempt to get back to earth that unfolds in real time. The story is simple to the point of being elemental, evoking classic symbolic imagery and themes. Some will claim cliche, others will appreciate the way Cuaron willfully incorporates some of the most basic and universal human stories ever told.
Either way, no one will be able to deny what he’s accomplished on a technical level. The director doesn’t just follow this death-defying adventure, but plunges the audience into the abyss along with Bullock. It’s as immersive a cinematic achievement as has ever been achieved and sure to be one of the most affecting and terrifying films of the year (anchored by an impressive and almost entirely solo performance by Bullock). There’s never quite been a movie like this before and as hesitant as I am to toss around a word like “masterpiece,” but it fits. (Phil Brown)