A more thoughtful, critical analysis is expected in a movie review, but there's no better summation of the 90 minutes I spent watching Alfonso Cuaron's "Gravity" than those three letters and that exclamation point.
"Gravity" is a truly magical, awe-inspiring film, one that captures the grandeur of space unlike any tale before it.
Sandra Bullock plays a medical engineer struggling to survive in space in “Gravity.”
From its opening shot - which feels like a several-minutes long single take as the camera hovers, swirls and roams around a medical engineer and a veteran astronaut as they try to get a piece of technology to work - the movie transports and immerses the viewer in the stars.
The way Cuaron's camera moves almost creates the sensation that the viewer is floating weightless alongside Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) as they struggle for survival.
The duo and a third crew member Shariff (Paul Sharma) are outside of the shuttle when they are caught in a debris field created after a Russian missile strikes one of its own satellites. The shuttle is destroyed, Shariff is killed and the two are stranded in space with limited oxygen, a jet pack with dwindling fuel and a fading hope that they can reach Russian or Chinese space stations that may or may not have suffered the same damage as their craft.
STARS: Sandra Bullock and George Clooney
STORYLINE: A veteran astronaut and a medical engineer are stranded in space when a debris field wipes out their shuttle during a mission.
DIRECTOR: Alfonso Cuaron
RATING: PG-13 for intense perilous sequences, some disturbing images and brief strong language.
Ryan is on her first space mission. She went through six months of training in preparation for this trip, but no simulator could reasonably prepare someone for this scenario. Matt is a veteran astronaut - this was going to be his last mission - and he exudes a cool confidence, like a pilot calming the passengers on a flight through treacherous weather, as he tries to reassure Ryan and guide her to potential safety.
Bullock and Clooney are the only actors seen on camera. Sharma only is seen from a distance before his death in the opening minutes, Ed Harris provides the voice from Mission Control and a couple other voices are heard on the radio. And Cuaron perfectly melds their performances with the technology to create a mesmerizing experience.
If Bullock gets a Best Actress nomination - and she almost certainly will - she may be the first actor nominated primarily for her breathing. At different times, there are stretches were the dominant sound is her mechanized breathing inside the space suit, and it conveys panic and emotion in surprisingly effective ways.
Bullock's and Clooney's performances provide the human element the story needs, and I'm being intentionally vague so as not to reveal any spoilers after the initial catastrophe. But the movie is at its most stunning as a technical marvel. Cuaron's love of long takes that let the action unfold in front of and around the camera is a style well-suited to the story. The cinematography (Emmanuel Lubezki), the visual effects (Tim Webber), the editing (Cuaron and Mark Sanger) and the sound design and mixing all play integral roles in the power of the movie.
And they wisely understand that running time doesn't equal dramatic import. "Gravity" is a taut 90 minutes long. Ironically, attached to the prints of "Gravity" is a trailer for Peter Jackson's second "Hobbit" movie. If ever there was a director who could learn the benefits of a tightly edited 90-minute movie, it's Jackson.
Don't miss "Gravity." Pay the extra money to see it in 3D and make the extra effort to see it on the biggest, best screen possible. Too often Hollywood craft is wasted on empty spectacle. Cuaron uses it to create something transcendent.