In space no one can hear you applaud, but down here on Earth critical acclaim is reverberating for Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity," the new thriller that opened the Venice Film Festival on Wednesday and will be released stateside Oct. 4. Starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as two astronauts stranded in space and struggling to survive, "Gravity" has wowed early reviewers with its taut direction, grounded performances and technical artistry.
In a rave review, Variety's Justin Chang writes that "Gravity" "is at once a nervy experiment in blockbuster minimalism and a film of robust movie-movie thrills, restoring a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide."
In his follow-up to "Children of Men," Cuaron delivers "another remarkable collaboration with longtime cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki and visual effects supervisor Tim Webber" with "impeccable verisimilitude and spellbinding visual clarity." The script, by Cuaron and his son Jonas, "modulates the tension expertly," and Clooney and Bullock share a "tough-and-tender rapport [that] pulses with understated feeling."
Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter writes, "At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, 'Gravity' is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise." He adds: "It's a wonderful cinematic jolt to watch this film for the first time, as it looks as if it had been filmed, as it were, on location. Given the brief running time, it will be tempting for many to return for second and third visits just to take it all in again."
As for the two stars, "Clooney supplies both manly reliability and welcome lightness as a guy anyone would want in their corner in a pinch, while Bullock is aces in by far the best film she's ever been in."
Indiewire's Oliver Lyttelton, who finds the film "extraordinary," agrees that Bullock is "about the best she's ever been in a dramatic role," and "Clooney's just as good." He continues: "They deserve all the credit in the world, but there's no doubt from the first few frames that the film is anyone but Cuaron's." The film is "technically perfect," "cleverly written, and more than anything phenomenally directed."
On the other side of the pond, the Guardian's Xan Brooks calls "Gravity" "a brilliantly tense and involving account of two stricken astronauts; a howl in the wilderness that sucks the breath from your lungs." Brooks adds: "It comes blowing in from the ether like some weightless black nightmare, hanging planet Earth at crazy angles behind the action. Like Tarkovsky's 'Solaris' … the film thrums with an ongoing existential dread. And yet, tellingly, Cuaron's film contains a top-note of compassion that strays at times towards outright sentimentality."
Finally, the Independent's Geoffrey Macnab gives a slightly more grounded review, though he still awards four out of five stars. The film, Macnab writes, "is a visual triumph even if its storytelling is less than sure-footed." On the acting front, "Clooney's constant wisecracking provides an earthy counterpoint to all the self-consciously sublime footage of space," while Bullock is "tough and self-reliant and challenges the gender stereotyping still often found in action movies."
"The one problem with 'Gravity' is that the plotting never quite matches its visual imagination," Macnab says. "Even so, this is a film that, at its best, really does induce a sense of wonder."
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