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TELLURIDE, Colo. — Gravity, Alfonso Cuaron‘s highly anticipated 3D drama about two American astronauts who become lost in space and struggle to survive after a freak accident, made its North American debut Saturday night at the new Werner Herzog Theater, three days after its world premiere at the Venice Film Festival. The film, which is drawn from a script co-written by the Mexican director and his son Jonas Cuaron, was greeted with hearty applause, not only for its awe-inspiring visuals but also for Sandra Bullock and George Clooney‘s first-rate performances under the most constrained of circumstances. Warner Bros. will release the film stateside Oct. 4.
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I would frankly be shocked if the film isn’t nominated for Oscars for best picture, best director, best actress (Bullock), best original screenplay, best cinematography, best film editing, best sound editing, best sound mixing and best visual effects. I think best supporting actor (Clooney) is also within the realm of possibility.
It may sound hyperbolic, but Gravity is truly one of the most visually magnificent films that I have ever seen. It creates a sense of genuine majesty and wonder about space and space travel that has long been absent from the big screen. Indeed, I imagine that the experience of watching it is akin only to the experience that I’ve often heard described of seeing 2001: A Space Odyssey and Star Wars during their initial runs. This is attributable to a blend of Emmanuel Lubezki‘s cinematography and the visual effects work supervised by Tim Webber, both of whom are longtime Cuaron collaborators. I can’t even begin to tell you how the actors were made to appear gravity-free, but I can tell you it never rang false. The same can be said for the film’s sound work, which, unlike that on many other films set in space, adheres to the scientific reality of what space is actually like: almost silent, even when chaos is occurring.
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As for the portrayals of the astronauts in peril, who start out as strangers but bond under pressure, one couldn’t have asked for more from Bullock and Clooney, who happen to be old pals in real life. Clooney’s Kowalski is the higher ranking of the two, but Bullock’s Stone is the main protagonist, and, thanks to his encouragement and guidance, she develops the confidence and will necessary to fight the odds. Bullock, struggling to remain calm under pressure, evokes memories of her star-making performance in 1994’s Speed, 19 years and one best actress Oscar ago. Clooney, meanwhile, puts his famous charm to good use, and is rewarded with one dramatic scene, in particular, that could earn him a return ticket to the Oscars.
The legacy of this film, apart from great reviews and big box office, might well turn out to be that it restores interest in space exploration, which has long been waning, even in spite of the dangers so frighteningly depicted in the film. That would be the ultimate testament to what a magnificent moviegoing experience Gravity provides.
Follow Scott on Twitter @ScottFeinberg for additional news and analysis.
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