In the dark depths of outer space, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a payload specialist on her first mission, is determined to repair a glitch in the Hubble telescope, trying to ignore the genial bantering of veteran NASA astronaut Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney), who's testing a new jet pack. "Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission," he says, while orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth. Sure enough, within moments, their shuttle Explorer is suddenly destroyed by discarded debris from an obsolete satellite and its crew incinerated.
As the sole survivors, Stone and Kowalsky are stranded and spinning out of control, unable to communicate with Mission Control. Tethered to one another, their only hope is reaching an abandoned Russian
space station that might have a workable re-entry vehicle -- and, beyond that, there's more peril.
While Clooney contributes wryly ingratiating humor, this is Bullock's tour-de-force. In a rare moment of respite, as she's floating, curled into a fetal position, her fear and dread of being alone in the universe is palpable. Yet she's brave, resourceful and fiercely determined to overcome immeasurable obstacles in order to survive. Like Dorothy in "The Wizard of Oz," Ryan Stone, at first, yearns to escape from Earth; eventually, all she desires is the force that will enable her to go home.
Collaborating with cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and special effects wizard Tim Webber, who seamlessly interweaves the latest technological innovations with post-production 3D, Mexican director/editor/producer Alfonso Cuaron ("Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," "Children of Men"), co-writing the screenplay with his son Jonas, has created an immersive, cosmic 3D experience. Using long, intricate tracking shots, coupled with astounding visual effects and sound complexity, Cuaron creates a luminescent virtual reality that enhances the story's profound emotional core, despite its sometimes far-fetched authenticity.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Gravity" is a wondrously innovative 9, an awesome spectacle not to be missed.