The Reel: Feel the exhilarating pull of ‘Gravity’ thanks to Bullock

Ben Conniff

Beyond Earth’s atmosphere, there exists an immense void.

No oxygen, no water, no air pressure and nothing to carry sound.

“Life in space is impossible,” or so the title card at the beginning of “Gravity” leads us to believe.

To start things off, director Alfonso Cuarón (“Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”) primes the audience for an assault of the senses with a deafening, brain-rattling drone from composer Steven Price (“The World’s End”), which builds to a quick halt, suddenly dropping the audience into the quiet vastness of outer space.

This clever filmmaking technique grabs the audience and refuses to let go, sucking them in like a massive vacuum in the film’s first 30 seconds.

From there, cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki (“Children of Men”) conducts a dazzling, 13-minute, single-take ballet of sweeping camera movements that dance in and around the Hubble space telescope on which the featured space travelers (George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) are conducting repairs.

Then suddenly, they’re sent adrift by a torrent of flying debris.

These first 13 minutes use 3-D imagery and masterful camerawork to place the audience alongside the actors, allowing as realistic a spacewalk as most moviegoers are ever likely to experience.

Aside from the visual effects, Cuarón and his son, Jonás, pen a succinct script.

Superficially, it’s just a story about finding one’s way back home.

Perhaps more deeply, it’s about the reinvigoration that our lives get from second chances.

Parallels for rebirth and new life can be discerned throughout, though these might warrant multiple viewings in order to fully grasp and dissect them.

Bullock gives the performance of her career, capturing the raw emotion needed to make Dr. Stone a character that the audience can root for.

As astronaut Matt Kowalski, Clooney brings his trademark cool suave collectedness, never raising his voice or appearing panicked in the face of imminent danger.

He provides a handful of laughs in the early goings when he speaks to “Houston,” telling funny, anecdotal stories that serve as character development for Kowalski.

The stars make a great contrasting pair — Bullock’s Dr. Stone is the withdrawn antithesis to Clooney’s cowboy Kowalski.

The groundbreaking visual effects, spectacular 3-D imagery, masterful cinematography, arresting musical score and bravura performances make Alfonso Cuarón’s “Gravity” gripping, intense, emotional and nearly perfect on every technical level.

In the end, “Gravity” is the kind of movie that some people wait their whole lives to see.