In many ways, Alfonso Cuaron's Gravity is a very simple movie: it's about a pair of American astronauts who survive a horrific accident while trying to repair a satellite and must do all they can to stay alive.
In many other ways, Gravity is an astoundingly complicated movie. Those who recall the epic "six-minute shot" from Mr. Cuaron's brilliant Children of Men will be thrilled to learn that the director has now upped the ante in virtually every department of visual storytelling. Not only does Gravity feature a handful of wonderfully lengthy sequences in which there are no cuts -- or the cuts are invisible -- but he employs eye-popping, jaw-dropping digital effects in masterful fashion, and his cinematography (by master DP Emmanuel Lubezki) turns quiet scenes into art and action scenes into something truly splendid.
It certainly doesn't hurt that our astronaut heroes are Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, but again: Cuaron doesn't use his movie stars as flashy props. The names might sell some tickets, but both actors are simply great here. Clooney is his comfortably charming self as the veteran astronaut; Bullock, as a computer genius on her first space mission, is sweet and frightened, but also sharply intelligent, noble, and brave. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney could find chemistry in any premise you can cook up, but they're an especially appealing team in Gravity.
One of the very few films that has allowed / forced me to enjoy 3D filmmaking (along with Martin Scorsese's Hugo and James Cameron's Avatar), Gravity is quite simply one of the most suspenseful, intense, and consistently stress-inducing adventure movies I've seen in years. It starts off like a shot, delivers its necessary exposition in a masterful fashion, and then proceeds to destroy your nerves for an hour straight. Backed by a truly beautiful score by Steven Price and a dozen intangible assets you'll want discover on your own, Gravity simply kicks all kinds of cinematic ass.
The most beautiful thing about Gravity is how CGI, 3D technology, and endless hours of mechanical work are used in the service of a sweet, suspenseful, and wonderfully satisfying story about simple human nature. So many filmmakers use their million-dollar toys to distract us from warmth and humanity -- which probably explains why so many film buffs have grown to adore Alfonso Cuaron. The flashiest visuals in the world mean nothing if you don't actually care about those two astronauts who are floating away deep in outer space.