Hope for the best, don’t expect the worst. It’s my movie criticism mantra, but as the lights darkened at the Princess of Wales Theater for “Gravity’s” Canadian gala, already hailed as a masterpiece following a Venice Film Festival Premiere, it wasn’t just the fact that I was way up in the rafters wearing 3-D glasses over my already thick specs that was making me queasy. Early on, watching the oh, wow, visuals and the echoey emptiness of what it must be like to be doing routine maintenance in space (I so wanted “Pink Floyd”), I became bothered by narrative claustrophobia. Can one smell bullshit in space?
Despite all the gravity of Alfonso Cuaron’s 3-D space chamber opera, the story, co-written with his son, Jonas, reveals holes as gaping as those on any space station station ripped by the debris of an accidental explosion beyond the earth’s atmosphere.
In brief: Sandra Bullock plays Dr. Ryan Stone, a testy medical engineer pursuing research in space. George Clooney is Matt Kowalksy, the cheery professional astronaut on, yes, his last run. When space junk from a Russian mishap destroys their mission, their Harvard-educated brown-skinned colleague, their satellite, their station, and that of the Russians and, possibly, the Chinese, the pair struggle for survival, often tethered by a white umbilical cord.
The problem begins, but doesn’t entirely end, with Bullock’s character. She is nervous and brittle: but who isn’t? Okay, Clooney’s Galahad in a spacesuit isn’t. He wisecracks and story-tells and Cloonies to give “Gravity” its much-needed warmth and comic relief.
Dr. Stone (sinking like a ….) is just not a woman (or even a man) that could have passed the rigorous training process that NASA inflicts on its candidates….