Some trepidation going into this, being the sole human on Earth who simply didn't care for Children of Men. The hyperbolic praise attending the latest movie from Alfonso Cuaron made me a little suspicious - was this movie simply going to extend the overt, overpraised flourishes of Children of Men? Or was there something else happening here?
The answer is a little bit of both - like the previous movie, Gravity takes its time (here in a trademark Cuaron extended cut) to establish its world, the people in it, and the overall tone of the movie. But then a wave of debris hits, sending Mission Specialist Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) hurtling helplessly into space. It's a fraught, suspenseful story, of course, and even when the ticking clock, of which Cuaron is so clearly fond, is set (and reset) the focus remains on the human characters, their mounting and contagious desperation, their incredible grace in the face of such terrifying odds, and the glimpses of neurosis, emotion, frailty, and strength that shine through. And even if Cuaron can't resist the occasional in-your-face gesture to remind you that you're in the hands of a Master Filmmaker, Bullock and Clooney keep things beautifully, achingly earth-bound. Cuaron's greatest achievement in Gravity might just be giving a talented but painfully under-utilized actress the role of a lifetime, and the space to hit it out of the park.