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Film review: Gravity

October 25, 2013

Gravity

Seven years since his last feature film, acclaimed Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron returns with “Gravity,” a gripping space drama starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

Clocking in at just 90 minutes, the movie is a lean and relentless study of the human instinct for survival, documenting two astronauts’ attempts to make it back to Earth after a space shuttle mission goes horribly wrong.

Bullock and Clooney are essentially the only actors to appear in the film (although Ed Harris also lends his voice as Mission Control in Houston). It is full of tense moments, not least when Bullock’s character is cast adrift in space with her oxygen reserves running perilously low, but Clooney provides light relief throughout with a typically charismatic performance.

The film is a true labor of love, with the director Cuaron also jointly responsible for writing, producing and editing. Employing stunning visuals and a haunting soundtrack, the Mexico City native somehow manages to make space seem both claustrophobic and desperately empty.

“I think it’s the best space photography ever done. I think it’s the best space film ever done,” James Cameron said recently. And as the director of “Avatar” and “Aliens,” he’s something of an authority on the subject.

Having made his directorial debut with “A Little Princess” in 1995, Cuaron’s international breakthrough came with 2001’s “Y Tu Mama Tambien,” a hugely successful teen road movie which followed hot on the heels of Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu’s “Amores Perros” in kickstarting an exciting new wave of Mexican cinema.

Never one to be pigeon-holed, Cuaron has built up a diverse body of work, including an adaptation of Charles Dickens classic “Great Expectations” starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Robert De Niro; “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban,” one of the more critically acclaimed films in the enormously popular wizard series; and “Children of Men,” an absorbing dystopian thriller set in England in 2027. “Gravity” will only enhance Cuaron’s reputation as one of the hottest directors around and a nomination at next year’s Oscars would come as no surprise.

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