Not since 127 Hours have I run into a movie that provoked that mixture of excitement and trepidation in people I know who have seen the trailer as Gravity.
The excitement is understandable. The trailers make it look like exactly what it is, which is a harrowing, white-knuckle tale from start to finish.
And the trepidation? Mostly it has to do with acrophobia (because, believe me, that fear of heights is absolutely justified) or concern that it will have a bleak ending (no spoilers here).
I've often stated the opinion that animation is the purest kind of movie-making, because it is literally made by hand, image by image, in every practical sense. In that sense, Gravity may be the purest piece of filmmaking this year.
Filmmaker Alfonso Cuaron and his cowriter (and son) Jonas have imagined a world that cannot be filmed - then created it from scratch. While there are a couple of sets, much of the film is set in the unfathomably vast reaches of Earth's orbit. At some point as you're watching the characters float around - which is a large chunk of the film - it will probably occur to you that, no, they could not have shot this on location.
Yet it feels as though they did. Indeed, part of me wants to know how they did it - obviously, suspended from wires against a green screen in a studio somewhere - but part of me doesn't want to know. The film is so engulfing, so enveloping, that you just want to surrender to it and let it sweep you up.
Which it does in pretty short order. George Clooney and Sandra Bullock play a pair of astronauts who have come up to orbit Earth with the space shuttle - well, he's an astronaut, she's a scientist who's been through training for this flight. They're doing a space-walk outside the shuttle to do repairs on the Hubble telescope and almost ready to head back to Earth.
Then they get an alert from Houston: Get back to the shuttle - now. A missile has destroyed an orbiting satellite, and the debris from that massive piece of technology has, in turn, destroyed several other satellites in its orbit. That entire (and massive) debris field is heading toward them at roughly 17,000 miles per hour.
This review continues on my website.