Gravity is an awe-inspiring opportunity to experience the vast depths of space while appreciating the beauty of life on Earth. The intense story provides a gripping film experience. While the quick pace and short length make the film less epic than desired, it’s a film wholly worth seeing.

In Gravity, Sandra Bullock stars as Dr. Ryan Stone, an undertrained scientist on her first space mission. She’s aided by a team led by Matt Kowalski (George Clooney), a senior astronaut on his final space journey. Their mission is unidentified, but Stone is busy installing equipment on a satellite when unexpected news is received from NASA. The debris of a destroyed Russian satellite is hurtling around Earth’s orbit and their shuttle is directly in the path of the debris. Before the team can react, their shuttle is destroyed and Bullock and Clooney are left spiralling in space.

Gravity is director Alfonso Cuaron’s feature film follow-up to the 2006 Children of Men. He developed the idea for Gravity sometime thereafter, but he waited for technology to advance to a point where he could properly recreate the final frontier. Avatar’s release in 2009 made it clear that technology had reached an adequate level. It’s a good thing Cuaron waited, because the computer-generated depiction of space is breathtaking. An almost Kubrick-esque vision is offered through long takes and wide shots of the vastness of space.

Bullock delivers a strong performance as the desperate protagonist. Her struggle to survive without any basic needs—most vitally, oxygen—is delivered astonishingly well. Her character experiences many emotional states, all of which Bullock makes believable. Clooney plays his usual confident smooth-talker. His performance is adequate and, most importantly, offers some much-needed comic relief, but the film belongs to Bullock.

The film is very well-paced. We are first treated to a few moments of character development, which largely displays the differences between Stone and Kowalski. Once we know the characters and we’ve been given enough time to accept that they’re in space, disaster strikes. Cuaron wastes no time in a film where every second is vital. The film expertly creates an incredibly tense situation from the start.

The story and the visual effects are outstanding, but the script could have used some tinkering to take it to the same level. The dialogue and characterization (especially Clooney’s) seem far too cliché, and some dialogue felt unnecessary and contrived. In a silent environment like space, every sound should be precious. The film also verges on failing to satisfy its premise. The story feels incredibly tense, but the fast narrative ensured that Bullock’s situation never felt completely hopeless for too long. This is an effective film trope, but the subject seems to warrant more. Still, a film can’t be faulted for not being something it isn’t. Cuaron crafted a strong science fiction film that evaded any trappings of the genre. In a year rife with sci-fi films, Gravity clearly stands out as the strongest.

Gravity is an argument that life on Earth is a luxury, uniquely done by transporting the viewer away from this planet. And it needs to be experienced in theatres—it even justifies the 3D surcharge. MMMM