Gravity’s opening scene
Watching Alfonso Cuaron’s highly touted space drama Gravity feels, at times, like you’re watching one continuous shot. The Mexican-born director is a master of long takes, but if you look closely, you see where the edits are hiding. Still, the feeling he creates is one of continuity, of watching the action unfold in real time, and nowhere is this more evident that the opening scene. You start out light and airy. Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) is on his last voyage into space, zipping around having a good time. First-timer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is nervous, but fixing what she came to fix. Practically in the blink of an eye, the situation goes from harmless to harrowing, and before you know it you’re there, right along Stone as she hurtles through space with nothing to stop her.
This scene immerses you in a struggle for survival in the most hostile environment imaginable, where one false move spells your doom. You’re left breathless, your pulse pounding in your ears like a kettle drum, clutching whatever happens to be close. In a strong cinematic year — sci-fi and otherwise — this is the most intense scene, and one of those moments that reminds you of the power and magic of going to the movies.