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Sandra Bullock dazzles in 'Gravity'

  • (Warner Bros.)

Technically dazzling and emotionally gripping, “Gravity” is a space-age science fiction thriller grounded in something pretty close to reality.

A space shuttle / space junk accident picture, Alfonso Cuaron's movie gives us Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, space-walkers whose ship is wrecked, forcing them to face the ultimate human fear.

No one wants to die alone. There is no place lonelier than the cold, silent and airless vacuum of space.

Filmed in a stunning “How'd they DO that?” 3-D, we meet chatty Matt Kowalski (Clooney) testing a new jet pack, and Dr. Ryan Stone (Bullock), who is wrenching away on the Hubble Space Telescope. It's a routine spacewalk, with a barely glimpsed third astronaut outside the shuttle Explorer (NASA typically didn't allow three space walkers out).

Just another day of work for STS 157, with Kowalski cracking jokes and telling stories. Mission Control (the unseen Ed Harris) indulges him, bemused as ever.

Movie preview: 'Gravity'

Then, 10 minutes in, comes word of a Russian satellite destruction exercise that's gone awry. A cloud of deadly debris is racing for them. And before they can abort the spacewalk, get inside the ship and get away, it is trashed, their third space walker is killed and they're stranded, with mere minutes of oxygen in Stone's suit standing between her and an even quicker death than the certain doom facing them both.

Clooney's soothing voice is used to wonderful effect as he calms the space rookie down. His Kowalski is Mr. “Right Stuff,” coming up with a plan (jetting over to the International Space Station, which had to be abandoned because of the coming debris assault) and making Stone tell him chunks of her life story to still her panic.

Oxygen? “Sip, not gulp. Remember, wine, not beer.”

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