Gravity

Gravity 3D (12A)

Beneath the tension, buddy-buddy banter and eye-popping visuals of Gravity lies a deceptively simple story.

Effectively subtitled ‘Keep Calm and Carry On in Space’ Alfonso Cuarón’s disaster movie in orbit embraces stereotypes and formulaic tropes and embraces them to present an expansion of the genre.

The ‘70s gave us The Poseidon Adventure, The Towering Inferno and Earthquake. In the ‘90s it was Twister, Volcano and Dante’s Peak. Now catastrophe is being played out in the final frontier: space.

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are the NASA astronauts whose shuttle is destroyed by a debris strike when they are outside making a repair on the Hubble. Stranded in the dark above a faraway bright planet they must attempt to overcome their fears and devise a survival plan. But drifting and spinning in the cosmos with no communications to earth makes the prospect unlikely…

Gravity instantly joins that narrow pantheon of space movies and rises to the top of the list. It is also a companion piece to the likes of Cast Away – Tom Hanks marooned on a desert island – as it allows Bullock free rein to exercise her talents as a lone star.

Cuarón makes full use of Clooney as the wisecracking veteran and old hand who takes charge of a wholly unique situation. But this is resolutely Bullock’s film as she navigates a route through treacherous space shrapnel, leapfrogging from one disabled spacecraft to another as she seeks a way home.

Cuarón and co-writer Jonás Cuarón (his son) keep the drama taut and the plausibility levels high. They use visual effects as a tool for progressing a story that focuses on the will to survive: to do whatever it takes.

There is a peculiar moment of whimsy towards the film’s end, which momentarily lightens the mood and introduces an unnecessary element of Hollywood optimism. Nonetheless this is a bold, exciting and impressively original drama that has the stars as a backdrop but presents a real human story.

Star rating: ****

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