Sandra Bullock Has the Best Day Ever as ‘Gravity’ Lifts Off in Venice

Sandra Bullock and George Clooney at the Venice Film Festival
Sandra Bullock and George Clooney at the Venice Film Festival

The 70th Venice International Film Festival is officially underway, and the first shining star of this year's incarnation of the prestigious event is the woman who once managed to keep a bus above 50 miles per hour through Los Angeles traffic.

Sandra Bullock started the festival out in style at the opening ceremony and premiere of her new film, "Gravity." The "Speed" beauty looked stunning at the Palazzo del Cinema on Wednesday in an incredible red J. Mendel gown. It's the second fashion impression the star has made at the festival, as she previously arrived with co-star and longtime friend George Clooney for the "Gravity" photocall in a pink, green and orange dress designed by Alex Perry.

Sandra's choice of color at the premiere ended up being appropriate, as she's receiving red-hot notices for her performance in "Gravity." Justin Chang at Variety is especially taken with her portrayal of an astronaut stranded in zero-gravity space after her space shuttle is damaged, writing "In a performance that imposes extraordinary physical demands, the actress remains fully present emotionally, projecting a very appealing combo of vulnerability, intelligence and determination that not only wins us over immediately, but sustains attention all the way through the cathartic closing reels."

Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist also praises Bullock's performance, saying she's "steely, vulnerable, occasionally funny and about the best she's ever been in a dramatic role," and Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter writes that she's "aces in by far the best film she's ever been in."

Guy Lodge at HitFix is impressed with the nuances of Bullock's portrayal, writing that the actress "puts her impressively restrained performance to the fore just when the film needs her to, without straying from the character's slightly dour vulnerability or succumbing to focus-pulling bravado; it's a role that at once requires a movie star, and requires her not to be one." And Geoffrey MacNab at The Independent is impressed with what's quite a departure from Bullock's earlier comedic roles, saying the actress "clearly relishes a physically demanding and unglamorous role as far removed from the world of 'Miss Congeniality' as can be imagined."

Sandra Bullock has certainly earned such raves, at least from a physical standpoint. The process of filming "Gravity" was a grueling one, requiring the actress to spend most of her time in 9'x9' lightbox or "hanging from 20 foot ceilings." Bullock herself calls it "physically and mentally, the craziest, most bizarre, challenging thing" she's ever done, according to Deadline. And that thing might just score her another Oscar statue to place alongside the one she was awarded for her performance in "The Blind Side" (2009).

It sounds like all the hard work was definitely worth it across the board, as the film itself is being hailed as something of a masterpiece. Justin Chang at Variety says "Gravity" is "a nerve-shredding suspenser, a daring study in extreme isolation, and one of the most sophisticated and enveloping visions of space travel yet realized onscreen" and a film that "restores a sense of wonder, terror and possibility to the big screen that should inspire awe among critics and audiences worldwide."

Oliver Lyttelton at The Playlist was impressed with how "Gravity" inspires audience participation in the experience of the two astronauts: "The film comes as close as most of us are likely to get to actually being in space ... but it shouldn't be dismissed as a mere rollercoaster ride — even if your instinct, as at a theme park, is to finish the experience and line up again for another go. When all's said and done, the action is in service of character."

And Todd McCarthy at The Hollywood Reporter is quite taken with the film: "At once the most realistic and beautifully choreographed film ever set in space, 'Gravity' is a thrillingly realized survival story spiked with interludes of breath-catching tension and startling surprise." He also says the technical aspects of the film "will have buffs and casual fans alike gaping and wondering, 'How did they do that?' and returning for multiple viewings just to imbibe the sheer virtuosity of it all."

The 70th Venice International Film Festival runs from Wednesday, August 28 through Saturday, September 7. "Gravity" will open in U.S. theaters on October 4.