The nerve-shredding tension of Speed meets the technical perfection of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey in this intimate sci-fi spectacular.
Sandra Bullock stars as Ryan Stone, a talented medical engineer making her first space-shuttle mission under the command of veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney).
As the team carry out a service on the Hubble Space Telescope, a planned missile strike on a defunct Russian satellite sends shards of dangerous debris hurtling towards them, instantly destroying the shuttle.
With limited oxygen supplies remaining, Stone and Kowalski find themselves trapped in the void, setting the clock ticking on an intense and exhilarating fight for survival.
The special effects are tremendous, while Bullock’s almost balletic performance imbues this film with a humanity and grace that beautifully complements director Alfonso Cuarón’s breathtaking vision.
> The only thing that THE HAUNTING OF CONNECTICUT: GHOSTS OF GEORGIA (15: Lionsgate)has in common with the original story is that it involves ghostly goings-on and is supposedly based on a true story.
The haunted house this time is an old mansion in the Georgian backwoods, which was once part of the “underground railway” that helped slaves from the Deep South escape to the north.
The house’s newest residents are a young family from the city, but with daughter Heidi possessing psychic abilities, it’s not long before otherworldly creatures are popping up all over the place.
Mum Lisa, who has similar powers to her daughter but has fought long and hard to suppress them, is sceptical at first yet reluctantly starts to accept something very bad must have happened at the property back in the 19th century.
A relentless pace is sustained throughout and the proceedings are punctuated with a constant stream of frights and shocks, which go a long way towards compensating for the predictable plotting and bland performances.
> On paper, CLOSED CIRCUIT (15: Universal) has the makings of a taut and clever thriller.
Barrister Martin Rose (Eric Bana) is appointed to defend the sole surviving suspect after a terrorist bomb in central London leaves many dead.
But when special advocate Claudia Simmons-Howe (Rebecca Hall) is appointed to review classified evidence that she legally can’t reveal to ex-lover Rose, the pair find both their careers and lives in jeopardy as they unravel a conspiracy that stretches to the country’s highest seats of power.
So much screen time is spent explaining the legal complexities of terrorist trials that the pace never gets into top gear.
The script is by Peaky Blinders writer Steven Knight, but the clunky dialogue has a tendency to make the two leads appear wooden and disconnected from the story, with only Jim Broadbent as a government bigwig with a hidden agenda making any real impression.