Despite it's jaw dropping special effects (and 3D shenanigans), Gravity is actually a surprisingly simple story. Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are astronauts repairing the Hubble Space Telescope when a rogue wave of debris trashes their shuttle and seriously ruins their day/lives. This is basically what you see in the film's trailer. The rest of the movie is a cat and mouse game between humans vs physics in the terrifying vacuum of space. Think Castaway or Life of Pi, but shipwrecked in space...and instead of drowning, you drift aimlessly through the endless cosmos, forever.
Clooney does a great job playing himself, but it's Bullock who literally carries the film on her shoulders. I've never been a huge Sandra Bullock fan before, but her performance in Gravity is amazing and is basically her best role since Demolition Man. While the cast is great (both of em...they're the only two actors with any screen time) it's director Alfonso Cuaron who ends up stealing the show. His last film, 2006's Children of Men was both a technically dazzling and poignant film, with layered characters and plot that had little focus on special effects. Gravity is the exact opposite, a simple story with almost stock characters but features some of the most insane special effects and cinematic pizazz ever put onscreen. The opening sequence above Earth's orbit is one continuous 17 minute shot and is one of the most gorgeous things I've ever seen. Hats off to Cuaron and cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki for expanding upon their already legendary camera work from Children of Men and taking it to a whole new level. The sparse use of music and sound throughout the film demonstrates the frightening silence of space and reaffirms one of the scariest elements of the entire film: just how small and insignificant we are in the universe.
On a lighter note, Cuaron should be commended for loading Gravity with nods to other space films. Ed Harris provides the voice of NASA's Houston control straight outta Apollo 13, alongside a slew of references to Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. While Kubrick's film saw space travel and technology as a path to mankind's transcendence (via monoliths and star babies), Gravity is all about forgoing the hustle and bustle of our high tech world (dAt astronaut LYFE) and remembering it's the little things that make life worth living. It's existential rebirth by way of oxygen deprived claustrophobia. You know, the fun stuff.