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Matt Kowarsky (George Clooney) and Dr Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are stranded in space when their shuttle mission to repair the Hubble Telescope suffers a disastrous encounter with catastrophic orbital debris. That’s the premise – and that’s the story. Sandra Bullock is an actress I can take or leave – normally leave – and here she does her usual Miss Panicky-Two-Shoes routine, which is acceptable in this film given the perilous situation her character, Dr Stone, finds herself in. Mr Clooney’s presence in Gravity seems to revolve around giving us a plausible impersonation of Buzz Lightyear, which he does effectively.

Those paying attention may detect the opening to a negative review, unlike the many good reviews garnered by this 91-minute effort directed by Alfonso Cuaron (who directed the very fine Children of Men). Quite how this latest offering from Cuaron has attracted so many positive reviews is a puzzle to this pair of eyes. It’s a typical Hollywood roller-coaster ride – everything that can go wrong for Stone and Kowarsky does go wrong. Bullock’s character extricates herself from one hazardous situation too many, and has the annoying habit of talking to herself – to make sure the thicks who’ve paid into the cinema to watch the film can understand what’s going on. Not that there’s much to comprehend; the storyline is as thin as some of the spacesuit tethers that keep Dr Stone alive as the film reaches a climax that disappoints, though it has to be said the closing quarter gives ample opportunity to study Ms Bullock’s legs – and an interesting pair of pins they are.

Gravity has its moments. The visual background is, of course, stunning (were we to expect anything less?) and one of the scenes where Dr Stone is in a capsule is excellent in parts but ruined (this is not really a plot-spoiler) by a development involving, of all things, dogs. Subsequently, Dr Stone conveys loneliness and loss in a more subtle manner, but, hey, subtlety? Forget it; Hollywood does not do subtlety which is a shame because Bullock does have moments of quiet introspection and muted reflection that show she can act. Then the cloying sentimentality takes over once again and culminates in an overdone moment when a single floating tear dominates the 3D screen in a manner that screams ‘sledgehammer alert!’

Leave part of your brain at the popcorn dispenser for this one. And the holes in the plot? How about these for starters (again giving away no spoilers here): blaming it all on the nasty Russians, oxygen depletion (where did that extra supply come from?), interpreting instruction manuals written in another language without too much bother at all – oh, and flying and landing a foreign spacecraft without much bother at all at all. I consoled myself with the thought that my previous visit to Cineworld had been to see Woody Allen’s latest: the wonderful Blue Jasmine, a fine study in character and observation. Then, trudging home, I considered another consolation – the finale of season 3 of Homeland lay waiting in my plus box. And what a consolation – now there’s something worth watching.

Gravity, directed by Alfonso Cuaron (2013)
Review by David Murphy
First published on David Murphy’s blog, 19 Dec 2013.
Republished online by Albedo One, 12 Jan 2014. 

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