I was so scared throughout the majority of this film – not only that I was floating alone out in space because the 3-D is so good, but I was scared that Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) might not make it back home. That’s smart filmmaking; kudos to director Alfonso Cuarón. There is a thrilling visual life to this movie, and there is also an intense emotional life here.

Ryan is all alone in the universe, figuratively and literally. She finds an emotional connection with fellow astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) after they are both stranded away from their destroyed space shuttle, and he becomes the conduit through which we learn about her life up to this point. She has to move on from her tragic past, and her being lost in space becomes a metaphor for her being lost in life.

Bullock gives a terrific performance here, transforming the expository dialogue into the film’s lifeblood. Had she been the same actress she was just five years ago, she would have been more than helped by the film’s amazing cinematography and effects. But because she’s so good, “Gravity” is a knockout of a one-two punch.

The feeling this film gives is akin to the feeling of flight achieved in the IMAX sequences of “The Dark Knight.” Only this time, the feeling of flight has been replaced by a feeling of total weightlessness. There’ a jaw-dropping, gasp-worthy moment when Ryan first finds herself stranded and anchored to nothing. It is her, tumbling and struggling, almost becoming as small as the stars as she slides away from our point of view. That’s the artistry in this movie at work.

It’s an exciting ride watching Ryan fight for her life in zero gravity. If Alfred Hitchcock were alive today, I think he would have envied the level of tension this film creates. It never stops finding plausible and entertaining ways

to raise the stakes in Ryan’s quest of self-preservation.

There is no way “Gravity” can lose any awards race concerning special effects. The technology needed to meet Cuarón’s ambitions did not exist when he set out to make it. He had to wait for technique to complement art, and it seems to me that he used that time to think everything through. The movie feels very even-handed and incredibly assured for what a risky proposition it was.

Warner Bros. owes Cuarón a huge debt of gratitude for making such a great film for them, and he owes them one as well for trusting him with their millions of dollars. Movies this special don’t come out of the studio system too often.

“Gravity” = 4.5/5