Alfonso Cuaron's “Gravity” resets all expectations on how space is portrayed on film and is possibly the most perfect marriage between 3-D technology and compelling storytelling in the format's relatively short modern life.
This film about astronauts in orbital crisis is exhausting in all the ways it should be, from the emotional strain of watching the believable characters enduring unimaginable life-or-death chaos to the muscle stress incurred from gripping the armrest. This could be a classic.
When Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is introduced, she already is in a state of high-stakes stress. A medical engineer drafted to perform a specific mission on the Hubble Space Telescope, Stone is doing her best to maintain composure on a controlled spacewalk. She is ably assisted by an old pro, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a NASA astronaut who has been on enough shuttle missions to confidently navigate the inherent strangeness of zero gravity, a state in which up and down mean close to nothing, and momentum can be both a tool for quick travel and a sudden trip into the void of space and certain death.
He is a calm presence, but even Kowalski has never experienced anything like the next series of events. A scheduled Russian destruction of a communications satellite goes spectacularly wrong, and a volley of deadly space debris is sent hurtling toward the space shuttle. In just a few violent seconds, Kowalski and Stone are cut off from their vehicle as well as most communications. The International Space Station is far out of reach and just as vulnerable to damage. They are all alone, 347 miles above the city lights of Earth and without a clear path to safety.