Skip to main content

Originally published October 3, 2013 at 12:11 AM | Page modified October 3, 2013 at 7:27 AM

  • Share:
  • Comments (14)
  • Print

‘Gravity’: the desperate tale of an astronaut lost in space

A four-star review of “Gravity,” a brief, compelling drama about an astronaut lost in space, starring Sandra Bullock in a cosmic tour de force.

Seattle Times movie critic

Movie Review 4 stars

‘Gravity,’ with Sandra Bullock, George Clooney. Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, from a screenplay by Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief language. Several theaters.

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
I'd never use movie running time as a judge of how good or bad a movie is. "An... MORE
90 Minute running time if fine with me. Seems like you go to see a movie nowadays and... MORE
Don't know if it's worth 4 stars but the review was so well written that I'm enticed to... MORE


“What do you like about being up here?” one astronaut asks another, in Alfonso Cuarón’s wondrous space odyssey “Gravity.” She answers, “The silence.”

Silence is terrifying in this film, as is nothingness: the image of an astronaut, floating untethered, somersaulting through emptiness as she whispers “please copy” into her headset, praying that someone, somewhere, might hear her. “Gravity” is brief, strangely beautiful and deeply moving; far from being the sterile technical exercise it might have been, the film illustrates, better than any other I can think of this year, the aching way in which a heart longs for home.

Though George Clooney flits through the film as a genial astronaut nearing retirement, and Ed Harris provides the comforting voice of Mission Control, this is for much of its length a one-character movie. Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), a medical engineer on her first space mission, is making seemingly routine repairs to the Hubble Telescope when an unexpected shower of debris aborts the mission, wipes out ground communication and destroys the shuttle. (We see the poignant sight of objects — eyeglasses, a Rubik’s cube, someone’s retainer — floating through the now-abandoned shuttle; little pieces left, of those now gone.) Ryan, with dwindling oxygen and little experience in space, must desperately figure out how to return to Earth, and to home.

There are no flashbacks in “Gravity,” which entirely takes place in space, with actors who for most of the film must convey emotion from behind a thick glass helmet, using only their voices. It shouldn’t work, and it’s a tribute to Cuarón’s remarkable talent — and his cast — that it does. Clooney is a wonderfully comforting presence, but it’s Bullock who astonishes. We learn, in the film’s subtle screenplay (written by Cuarón with his son, Jonás), only a little about Ryan and about the terrible sadness that drove her to the overwhelming silence of space; it’s all that we need to know.

Watch this film on the biggest screen you can find, in 3D IMAX if possible — not to be overwhelmed by its noise and effects, but to join its smart, soulful heroine on her incredible journey and to experience the size of its quietness.

Moira Macdonald: 206-464-2725 or

News where, when and how you want it

Email Icon

 Subscribe today!

Subscribe today!

99¢ for four weeks of unlimited digital access.


Partner Video


The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►