Sandra Bullock's new film 'Gravity' is 'mesmerising'
Venice Film Festival's opening night movie is praised for its stunning visuals – but is that enough?
GRAVITY, the sci-fi movie starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney that opened this year's Venice Film Festival, has not left critics disappointed.
The film, which was screened in Venice today, tells the story of two astronauts (played by Bullock and Clooney) working on a US space station. Their mission goes horribly wrong when debris from a Russian satellite hurtles into them, casting them adrift in the emptiness of space. Critics say the film, which is set 375 miles above earth for its duration, is a visual treat, with the cinematography giving the audience an experience of space that is "deeply unnerving".
Writing in the Hollywood Reporter, Todd McCarthy says the visual effects have such "astonishing clarity" that Gravity looks as "if it had been filmed, as it were, on location." McCarthy predicts that many viewers are likely to return for second or even third viewing of the "most realistic" film ever set in space.
Oliver Lyttleton at Indiewire agrees, saying cinema-goers will be happy to fork over a little extra cash to watch the "visceral, knuckle-chewingly tense" film in 3D. Lyttleton praises Bullock for her performance as Dr Ryan Stone, describing it as "the best she's ever been in a dramatic role."
While Bullock's performance is hailed by several critics, it is the film's director, Alfonso Cuarón, who attracts the most lavish praise. Every decision he makes is "inspired", writes Lyttleton.
One of those decisions is the unbroken 13-minute shot that opens the movie. Justin Chang at Variety says in those opening minutes, the film not only introduces its central crisis — will Dr Stone survive? — but also "completely immerses us in the beauty and majesty of a dark, pitiless universe." Chang says that Cuaron develops this study of extreme isolation through complex visuals but also by making the film "a work of great narrative simplicity."
Some critics felt the narrative is the only flaw in an otherwise riveting film. Derek Malcom in the London Evening Standard says that once you get used to the grim silence of outer space the plot is "too lean" to ever truly "grip" the audience.
Geoffrey MacNab at The Independent agrees, saying the plot never quite matches "mesmerising, abstract beauty" of the film's visuals. Despite the dramatic events faced by the astronauts, Gravity risks becoming "just a little banal and predictable," he writes. But by the end, Cuaron's film does manage to "induce a sense of wonder." ·