LOS ANGELES - "Gravity," starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as the sole survivors of a devastating accident in space, is winning rave reviews and Oscars buzz as Hollywood's annual awards season gets into gear.
While the film's premise may seem unpromising, some critics have evoked Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" in writing about the movie, released in the United States this week.
The film by Oscar-nominated Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron, which achieves the unlikely goal of using a space disaster movie to evoke themes of loss and love, has a stellar 97 per cent rating on the Rotten Tomatoes review aggregator website.
"Alfonso Cuaron's white-knuckle space odyssey restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide," wrote industry journal Variety.
The visually stunning movie, shot in eye-popping 3D, is "thrilling, and as close to feeling like you're in space as most of us will ever be," added the Hollywood Reporter.
The story is simple: veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (Clooney) is making his last space flight trying out a new jet-pack space suit which lets him zip around in space, while Ryan Stone (Bullock) is on her first trip into orbit.
They are the sole survivors of a spectacular accident involving satellite debris colliding with their spacecraft, leaving them adrift in the void.
But the technical challenges of making the movie were enormous. They involved a combination of computer generated imagery (CGI) and unorthodox training by Bullock and Clooney to learn to move as if in zero gravity.