Edelstein: "Gravity" both cornball AND amazingly incredible

(CBS News) A new space thriller has our critic David Edelstein over the moon:

The plot is basic. Two astronauts (played by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney) get marooned in space when speeding debris from an exploded Russian satellite disintegrates their shuttle and kills the rest of the crew.

So the shell-shocked medical engineer Bullock and gregarious mission commander Clooney have to find a working shuttle to get home, maybe on the nearby Russian space station, preferably before that lethal debris hurtles around the Earth again in 90 minutes.

Set your watches. Dwindling oxygen . . . limited fuel . . . and it's a mess up there.

Woven through the cliffhangers is a spiritual odyssey: A woman who's dead inside must let go of despair, find her faith -- be, in a sense, reborn.

The verdict? "Gravity" is cornball as all get-out, totally formulaic, and incredibly, amazingly, stunningly incredible.

I'm out of superlatives.

The key is math. Hear me out; this isn't a nerdy ode to my 10th grade Geometry teacher. It's just that when you watch, you're aware (even if you're not conscious of them) of multiple variables, hidden logarithms, e=mc2.

Director Alfonso Cuaron and effects supervisor Tim Webber strut their stuff in crazy long, fluid shots -- mathematical miracles.

It's all done inside a computer, but still: camera moving, shuttle moving, Earth's rotation, stars' rotation, characters in zero gravity . . . the momentum of a body as it collides with another body with a head-jolting whomp . . .

I saw "Gravity," in 3-D, and so should you: Sit as close as you dare to the biggest screen possible, in a seat like the one I had that rocked back and forth as I recoiled from the impact of light and sound.

The actors make it intimate. Clooney is a hoot, but it's Bullock's movie: She's our most down-to-earth superstar, which makes her the perfect person to connect with us from outer space. Her zero-gravity ballet is exquisite.

There's a fusion of faith and math that makes the corny, old-Hollywood-style "Gravity" a dazzling bombardment for the heart and brain. It's not just state-of-the-art. It's the Higher Corn.

For more info:

To watch the trailer for "Gravity" click on the video player below.

Edelstein endorses:

More from David Edelstein:

David Edelstein on the powerful "Short Term 12"
Fighting back against talkers and texters at the movies
Edelstein on "Elysium" and our obsession with apocalypse
Much ado over Joss Whedon's "Much Ado About Nothing"
David Edelstein's summer movies, by the numbers

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