Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity
begins with a staggeringly brilliant and mesmerizingly staged 17-minute single take, which manages to encapsulate every single feeling the rest of the film will instill in its viewers: tranquility, warmth, peace, trepidation, nervousness, endearment, wonder and, most of all, fear. With Gravity
, Cuarón and his screenwriter son, Jonas, take on the most primal fear possible, that of being lost in an abyss of nothingness. The film features only two actors, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney. Their simple space-station repair mission turns into a nightmare as debris from a destroyed satellite tears their shuttle to shreds and they’re left hopelessly adrift with a dwindling supply of oxygen. We, like the characters, are stuck, watching the events as they unfold, mostly in real time, and gasping for our collective breath as the oxygen meter slowly runs out. It is perhaps the most stressful experience to be had in a movie theater this year, and as such it’s nearly perfect. Bullock exudes terror and strength in her difficult role. Clooney, here playing a supporting piece of space debris, becomes the film’s sense of calm and functions as much-needed comic relief. It’s impossible to even consider relaxing as the characters drift from one scrape with death to the next over the course of 90 unrelenting minutes. But it’s in the brief lulls that Cuarón manages his most amazing feats, allowing us to stop and stare in awe at the beauty of the images onscreen. The film is as haunting and beautiful as it is brilliant.