George Clooney and Sandra Bullock arrived in Venice earlier this week to present their space adventure thriller "Gravity" at the 70th Venice Film Festival.
Directed by Academy Award nominated director Alfonso Cuarón ("Children of Men"), "Gravity" dives into the unforgiving realm of deep space. After their shuttle is destroyed during a routine mission, a veteran astronaut (Clooney) and a space-rookie engineer (Bullock) spiral into the unknown, tethered to each other.
The trailer chilled with gravity-defying acrobatics, stunning visual effects, and lots of heavy breathing as the astronauts' oxygen supply — and hope of rescue — diminishes.
Variety praised, "It would be impossible to overestimate the difficulty of what Cuarón and his top-of-the-line crew have pulled off."
But The Independent found the epic space thriller to be "flawed," calling it "a visual triumph even if its storytelling is less than sure-footed."
Here's what else critics are saying:
You feel like you're in space.
The film comes as close as most of us are likely to get to actually being in space (undoubtedly aided by the 3D: this is one film that’s really worth paying the extra bucks for to see in the format, whether the lens is capturing a tiny spinning speck in the distance or debris flying in your face).
When I stood up as the final credit rolled, I don’t mind admitting that I immediately had to sit down again, a Bambi-like wobble coursing through my limbs, as if I'd just re-encountered gravity myself.
It's not your average sci-fi flick.
Not at all a science fiction film in the conventional sense, Alfonso Cuaron's first feature in seven years has no aliens, space ship battles or dystopian societies, just the intimate spectacle of a man and a woman trying to cope in the most hostile possible environment across a very tight 90 minutes.
However, many are drawing comparisons to "Life of Pi."
Both ["Gravity" and "Life of Pi"] are thrilling 3-D dramas of survival in a hostile environment, testaments to human grit and groundbreaking technical ingenuity. Both are the rare movies that need to be seen once for the “Wow!” factor and a second time to try figuring out how Cuarón and his technical savants managed to make the impossible seem so cinematically plausible.
No monsters pop out baring scary teeth, only adverse circumstances of such extremity that they place "Gravity" alongside "Life of Pi" and J.C. Chandor's contemporaneous "All Is Lost" as a survival tale requiring a heroically concentrated form of human resilience.
The narrative's simplicity balances — and is sometimes outdone by — the eye-popping visuals.
It falls among that increasingly rare breed of popular entertainments capable of prompting genuine “How did they do that?” reactions from even the most jaded viewers, even as its central premise is so simple and immediately gripping that one might just as readily ask, “Why didn’t anyone do it sooner?”
The one problem with "Gravity" is that the plotting never quite matches its visual imagination. There isn’t the same urgency or plausibility here found in JC Chandor’s recent, similarly themed "All Is Lost" (which featured Robert Redford as a lone sailor whose boat is sinking.) At times, as the astronauts desperately battle fire, tangled parachute strings and malfunctioning machinery, matters risk becoming just a little banal and predictable.
Cuarón's long-awaited return to the silver screen was worth the wait.
Cuarón, just as Brian De Palma ("Mission to Mars") was, is alive to the empty-full spectacle of space and to the workday poetry of the words astronauts use to describe it.
He’s the rare virtuoso capable of steering us through vividly imagined worlds and into deep recesses of human feeling.
Clooney and Bullock are magic on screen.
[Clooney and Bullock's characters] are not two people you would naturally team up for a life-or-death mission — although Cuarón, who co-wrote the script with his son Jonás, assiduously avoids odd-couple clichés and romance under pressure.
The casting of Bullock and Clooney is key to how effective the film is in jangling our nerves; their familiar movie-star faces (visible mostly from underneath their helmets), warm voices, and easy, teasing rapport soothe us in several of Gravity’s harrowing moments, and make things even more disconcerting when their mission devolves into pure terror.
We're reminded why America loves Bullock.
Cuarón offered the Ryan part (Bullock) to Angelina Jolie, twice, and then to Natalie Portman, Jennifer Lopez, Rachel Weisz, Marion Cotillard, Carey Mulligan, Blake Lively, Scarlett Johansson, Olivia Wilde — everybody. When these actresses see what Bullock has been given in the role, and the fiery commitment she gives to it, they should all whisper a sincere, Rick Perry-style “Oops.”
Bullock is the undoubted star and is seriously good here, giving Stone an inner steeliness that only the very deepest pangs of despair can unsheathe. "Gravity" teems with images of birth and rebirth, and from the cable that links Bullock’s character umbilically to Clooney’s, to the extraordinary shot of her hanging in an airlock in a state of amniotic suspension, Cuarón makes his heroine’s sex a core part of her heroism.
The ending plays out like an homage to Sigourney Weaver’s character Ripley in "Alien."
But we're not going to spoil it for you.
The consensus: "We have lift off."
Right now, 100% of critics on Rotten Tomatoes say go.
"Gravity" arrives in theaters October 4.
Watch the gut-wrenching trailer below: