Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is good. It’s very good. However, is it — as has been claimed — the greatest film ever? Is it the best use of 3D of all time? Is it a work as revolutionary as 2001: A Space Odyssey was in 1968? No, no, and no. Less ridiculously hyperbolic and more to the point, is it a worthy follow-up to Cuarón’s Children of Men and was it worth waiting seven years for? Sadly, I’m saying no and no here, too. Gravity is a beautifully made sci-fi suspense picture. On that level, one cheesy shock effect complete with musical sting aside (you’ll know it when you see it), the film is beyond reproach. Its story is simple suspense material: Two astronaut workers are left adrift in space by an accident, facing death by lack of oxygen if they aren’t killed by flying debris that’s on its way to them. For set-up, Cuarón wisely cast two performers, Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, who come complete with audience sympathy built-in. This allows him to get on with the business of the story with a minimum of muss and fuss. The life and death urgency of it all is undeniably intense. The effects work is flawless. I never doubted for a moment that what I was seeing was real. The 3D is certainly good, occasionally more than good, but I wasn’t all that wowed by it and I suspect Gravity works just as well without it. What makes Cuarón’s film such compelling entertainment is that it keeps you locked into that story and caring about what happens. For all its technical panache and spectacular visuals, it remains a firmly human story. Also in the film’s favor — though this may be something of a double-edged sword — is that it’s extremely efficient. It gets down to its story and delivers it with admirable economy and then has the good sense not to drag it out beyond its value. You seem to watch the film less than experience it, but the downside of this is that it’s almost too fast. There’s a lack of heft to it in that regard. Everything is so right “there” and so immediate that when it ends, it more or less just releases the viewer so that you leave the theater feeling satisfied — but not really left with all that much to stick with you.
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