Well the early reviews from across both ponds for Gravity (i.e. the movie we're predicting as being one of the best of the year) are in, and they're largely positive.
Let's take a gander at what some of the American/British critics are saying about Alfonso Cuaron's thriller (starring George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) for which even the trailer alone has us gasping for air. These lucky folk sat down to Gravity when it premiered at the Venice Film Festival on opening night.
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. Not at all a science fiction film in the conventional sense, Alfonso Cuaron's first feature in seven years has no aliens, space ship battles or dystopian societies, just the intimate spectacle of a man and a woman trying to cope in the most hostile possible environment across a very tight 90 minutes. World premiered at the Venice Film Festival, with Telluride showings following quickly on its heels, this Warner Bros. release is smart but not arty, dramatically straightforward but so dazzlingly told as to make it a benchmark in its field. Graced by exemplary 3D work and bound to look great in IMAX, the film seems set to soar commercially around the world.
All in all, it would be impossible to overestimate the difficulty of what Cuaron and his top-of-the-line crew have pulled off, or to guess at the staggering number of decisions that were made regarding specifics of camera placement and movement; the motion-control robots that were used on the actors to plausibly simulate zero-gravity conditions; the marvelous scope and detail of Andy Nicholson’s production design; and the meticulous integration of visual effects, all-digital backgrounds, traditional lighting schemes and other live-action lensing techniques. But perhaps the boldest risk of all was the decision to combine these elements in a manner that would hold up under the prolonged scrutiny of the camera, in single-shot sequences of such breathtaking duration and coherence. Somewhere, one imagines, the spirits of Stanley Kubrick and Max Ophuls are looking down in admiration.
Bullock is the undoubted star and is seriously good here, giving Stone an inner steeliness that only the very deepest pangs of despair can unsheathe. Gravity teems with images of birth and rebirth, and from the cable that links Bullock’s character umbilically to Clooney’s, to the extraordinary shot of her hanging in an airlock in a state of amniotic suspension, Cuarón makes his heroine’s sex a core part of her heroism.
Comparisons to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, Tarkovsky’s Solaris and Ang Lee’s Life of Pi are inevitable and well-earned, but in fact, Gravity operates as a companion piece to Cuarón’s last film, Children of Men, which played at Venice seven years ago. In that film, humanity had suddenly lost the ability to reproduce, and the result was global meltdown. But here, Cuarón is telling a different but related story of terror and mortality and hope. With nothingness pressing in on all sides, in a place where the grip of someone else’s hand is all that keeps you from the void, life really does seem like a miracle.