Gravity (M) *** and a half

AT last, an off-the-planet movie that obeys the laws of physics without trying to kid us that monsters are out there preparing to scare the tripes out of characters before a noisy, fiery cataclysm turns them into wreckage.

The film is visually beautiful. The human factors in director Alfonso Cuaran’s screenplay may stretch our credulity but the depiction of Planet Earth from 600 miles up radiates authenticity. The spaces beyond the characters as light changes during the motion of spacecraft are a major character in the drama, wordlessly giving information about what’s happening in the void without air to transmit sound and locating events that simply cannot exist on Earth.

Sandra Bullock is splendid in the film’s principal role, medico Stone sent into space to repair the Hubble telescope (an incongruity that doesn’t mar the main plot thread). While the pilot (George Clooney) amuses himself wafting around trying for the record time spent in untethered EVA, Huston sends a message that Russia has destroyed a nearby space station. Time for the American astronauts to hurry home. But Dr Stone hasn’t finished her task.

Conjecture about how Cuaran created the images forming the film’s second half will not leave us any the wiser. Comparing them with “2001: A Space Odyssey” will serve little use. It’s regrettable that the story’s human component doesn’t match the film’s wider issues. But that doesn’t diminish the power of its tensions or the physical and emotional merit of Sandra Bullock’s performance.

At all cinemas

 

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