Gravity review

Cuaron really is one of the most gifted directors working in movies today. For me, Y Tu Mama Tambien was the best film of 2001, his helming of the third Harry Potter resulted in it being the most impressive entry in that popular franchise while Children of Men had some standout sequences that were riveting.

None of these though prepare one for the sheer visual richness of Gravity. It's a stunner. Obviously it has to be seen on a large cinema screen – preferably the biggest you can find. The 3D pyrotechnics Cuaron provides are a knockout as the refreshingly simple storyline plays out. Bullock is stuck in space and needs to make her way to a safe space station, one that preferably hasn't been torn asunder by rogue elements from a previous disaster. She has to jostle with all manner of hardships – lack of oxygen, troublesome netting that has become attached to a pod she's in, disintegrating sub stations etc. It's just one disaster after another for the poor woman. Thankfully, her trusty Captain Clooney is around at points to give her smug and knowing guidance.

Criticism has been levelled at the movie for the lack of depth in the two characters. This is a lean and sleek get-out-of-danger situation – we don't need deep characterisations here. Bullock and Clooney are there to provide movie star wattage. We accept them blindingly as they effortlessly play to their superstar strengths, though Bulloch has much more to do and is excellent at portraying the tenaciousness and desperation her role requires.

Remember James Cameron's The Abyss? That was another big budget, effects-laden blockbuster, but it didn't work because he cast actors instead of movie stars. Ed Harris (who coincidentally is the voice of Mission Control here) and Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio were the leads, both expert performers. But the bloated underwater epic really needed movie stars for the audience to latch on to, the roles being too cliched for the players to make much of. At the time Harrison Ford and Sigourney Weaver would've been perfect for Cameron's opus. Bullock and Clooney are there for us to trust them. We don't want to see great acting from them, we simply want to be reassured. They provide reliable insurance as we are swept along by the constant dilemmas facing them.

Gravity contains the best use of 3D I've ever seen in a film. At one point we see the view of space through Bullock's eyes as she is looking through her helmet. In the foreground is the condensation from her breathing as we look out through the visor to the vast dimension of space. My jaw dropped at this sequence – on the huge screen it was wondrous to behold. You clever bastard, I thought of Cuaron. He really does have a bold talent, and now the technology to express it. For an hour and a half he holds you in the palm of his hand, crafting a beguilingly awesome and exciting tale that is unique, memorable and magnificent. A must-see to be sure, and one that cries out for attendance before going online or on Blu-ray/DVD. Never has your local multiplex been more important.

Gravity at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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