'Gravity' Is Out Of this World Twice Over

The new movie Gravity stars Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, who play astronauts adrift in space. Director Alfonso Cuaron heads the impressive team that makes us feel we're stranded in outer space ourselves.

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The space shuttle is the vehicle at the center of the new movie "Gravity," which lands in theaters today. The film has been a shining star at this year's fall film festivals, and our film critic, Kenneth Turan, says all the fuss is justified.

KENNETH TURAN, BYLINE: "Gravity" is out of this world twice over. Words do little to convey the astonishment this space opera creates. It has to be experienced in 3D on a theatrical screen to be fully appreciated. "Gravity" is set 400 miles above the Earth's surface, a bad place for something bad to happen. Two astronauts, played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, are circling the Shuttle Explorer when they hear the words all space folk dread.


ED HARRIS: (as character) Explorer, this is Houston.

SANDRA BULLOCK: (as Dr. Ryan Stone) Go ahead, Houston.

HARRIS: (as character) Mission abort. Repeat: Mission abort.

TURAN: A dangerous amount of debris is headed toward the shuttle faster than a speeding bullet, putting everyone's lives in jeopardy. Clooney is the space veteran in charge, but Bullock's Dr. Ryan Stone is the nervous greenhorn, trying to survive her very first time in space.


BULLOCK: (as Dr. Ryan Stone) Explorer, do you copy?

TURAN: Before you can say "Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," Dr. Stone is in trouble, floating off into the ether, all communication cut off - alone, alone, alone.


BULLOCK: (as Dr. Ryan Stone) Houston, this is Mission Specialist Ryan Stone. I am off structure and I am drifting. Do you copy?

TURAN: "Gravity"'s core story is a B-picture throwback, a film with a familiar lost-in-space, eager-for-Earth storyline. But its formidable narrative drive and attention to detail make the most of that scenario. And then there are those visuals.

Director Alfonso Cuaron heads the impressive team that makes us feel we're stranded in outer space ourselves, no questions asked. "Gravity" is steeped in images that convey the beauty, enormity and terror that being so far out there implies.

Director James Cameron is one of the few people thanked at the end of "Gravity," and with good reason. His groundbreaking "Avatar" opened the book on the modern artistic use of 3D. And "Gravity" is the next chapter. It's the most accomplished, persuasive use of the technology we've seen, from then till now.


GREENE: That's Kenneth Turan. He reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and also for the Los Angeles Times.

This is NPR News.

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