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Gravity Reaction: Venice Film Festival 2013

You could almost sense the excitement building for Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity (opens in new tab) , the opening movie of this year’s Venice Film Festival.

The 25 minute-delay to the press screening – as security guards faffed around with 3D glasses – only boosted anticipation that had been building since the film’s jaw-dropping trailer went online earlier this year.

Question is, could Cuarón’s long-awaited follow-up to 2006’s Children Of Men withstand such hype and give us, well, lift off?

Happily, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Co-written by Cuarón with his son Jonas, Gravity is a heart-pounding blockbuster – a visually awe-inspiring two-hander that showcases a storming turn from Sandra Bullock and smart support from George Clooney.

The film begins with one staggering 13-minute shot, as we zero in on routine repairs on the Hubble telescope some 375 miles above Earth.

On her first mission is Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone, a medical engineer. On his last deep-space outing is Matt Kowalsky, a veteran astronaut who seems almost as cocky as Clooney (even channelling Han Solo with his “I have a bad feeling about this” line).

With our astronauts in constant contact with Houston (and the soothing tones of Ed Harris), the mission is suddenly sent critical when a Russian satellite is destroyed, hurling debris towards them at an unfathomable speed.

Within seconds, a set-adrift Stone is free-falling in deep space as the film’s early elegance gives way to all-out carnage. In space no one can hear you scream? Don’t believe a word of it.

With their shuttle destroyed, and Stone’s oxygen running low, the pair are forced to head back to the nearby space station and an awaiting escape pod.

Fortunately, Clooney’s ultra-smooth spaceman is on hand to stabilise the situation. But Gravity is never about Gorgeous George playing the hero. Here he’s secondary to a brilliant Bullock, the very essence of the human will to survive.

No question, Cuarón’s use of 3D is right up there with Avatar and Hugo as the best example of the format.

Immersive isn’t the word; it’s so breathtaking at times you’ll be gulping for air. Likewise, the visual effects are phenomenal, with the physics of zero-gravity perfectly rendered as objects float listlessly in front of our eyes.

Showcasing both the horror and majesty of space-travel, it’ll make you think twice about booking that Virgin space shuttle flight with Richard Branson.

Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.