An illustrated existential crisis. Or, a survival story in which nearly every exterior event carries interior significance. Either way, it's gripping. The story is simple: an astronaut (a smooth-faced Sandra Bullock), cut loose from her spiritual moorings by a freak accident, is cut loose from her physical moorings by another freak accident. Now, just a hair's breadth from the cold embrace of the Big Nothing, she must struggle to find her way back to life. Also, earth. Director Alfonso Cuaron isn't shy about deploying Christian tropes — her journey back to life begins only after fellow astronaut George Clooney lays down his life for her and tells her how to be saved — to the point where it's fair to ask whether they're tropes at all. The camera does an enormous amount of the work here — now watching Bullock as she spins helplessly through space, now holding steady on her while the universe turns with her at its center, now slipping inside her helmet to watch the whirling maelstrom from her untethered point of view. (2013) — Matthew Lickona
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