I liked the movie. Gravity is a Biblical story of redemption, and it's a pretty good one. The premise is unique, and it adds suspense. The visuals and music are heavily integrated with the plot to create the entire experience. Seeing it in 2D at home in stereo is not the way to see this movie.
It's a very slow paced movie, so if you're looking for something with explosions every five seconds, look for something else. It also isn't particularly high brow; it's entertainment. If you want high brow, check out 2001: A Space Odyssey.
There is ample use of negative space in the movie, in the scenery and the dialog. It's very much in the Breaking Bad, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Hemingway mold where dialog is very sparse which allows the actors to act and the scenery to move the story along. There are a lot of visual symbols, and the setting is as much a part of the plot as the dialog. Gravity can be thought of as 2001 lite in that sense. It doesn't have the metaphysics, or Kubrick, of 2001, but the story is similar. There is actually an homage to 2001 in Gravity.
The character development was believable, and the actors were good. They're both subtle, but very appropriate for the storyline and style. I never got the feeling I was watching two actors, but just enjoyed the characters.
[Note: Spoilers are below.]
Let's break the movie down.
This movie could very well be a western. The vast emptiness of space versus the vast emptiness of the west. The western country music played by Kowalski hints at this.
Disaster strikes leaving Kowalski and Stone as the lone survivors. Kowalski acts as Stone's guide on her journey. Symbolically he pulls her along until he has to nobly sacrifice himself so she can go on. This foreshadows what will happen later in the Chinese capsule. Him pulling her symbolizes him being her guide through her transformation, and pulling her into her journey. He asks her what is back at home, and she opens up to him about her backstory. She would have been spiralling out of control and lost in space if he hadn't saved her and told her what to do. Much like she was doing with her lost child.
The ISS represents the start of Stone's rebirth. This is where the homage to 2001 comes in. Her fetal position and the position of the floating strap echo the Starchild from the ending of 2001. Within the capsules she will grow and mature into the heroine of the film. Kowalski had to die because this is about one person's rebirth, and ultimately only the person can take the journey. The Russian spacesuit represents her changing and being in the wilderness. The Russian suit is much more threadbare and primitive then the US spacesuits, plus the Cyrillic is similar to the Latin alphabet. It's only a little different.
The part where she turns off the oxygen is the come to Jesus moment of the film. She realizes she wants to be born, and that being born is a struggle. This is tipped off by the dialog about how she doesn't know how to pray because no one showed her how. The carbon dioxide causes her to hallucinate, and her spirit guide, Kowalski, returns to help her solve her dilemma. This could be a hat tip to First Nations smoking peyote in sweat lodges or early Christians eating magic mushrooms to achieve spiritual enlightenment. I'm not sure which. Anyway, this is the big cathartic moment of the film, and Stone realizes all she has to do is ask for God's grace and it will be granted.
The different languages represent how much she is in a foreign land. Stone has come a long way, and it's an alien world for her. Everything is similar, but it's different and she'll need to get used to it. Mandarin is nothing like the Latin alphabet, and it shows how much Stone has changed.
I've sat down at a German laptop before. The keyboard is similar, but alien. I was trying to fix something that required me to type on the laptop, and I couldn't find the key I needed. I pressed the key combo, but it wasn't the same. I guessed a couple of more times, and I ended up walking the owner of the laptop through the process. The Chinese capsule scene reminded me of that. Something very familiar, but very foreign.
The final part with the Chinese capsule is her resurrection. The fire represents the Phoenix mythos, which is appropriate since it's an oriental myth and the capsule is Chinese. The splash down is where Stone is born again, and where she enters the more traditional western motif. Stone exits the capsule and sheds the trappings of her time in the wilderness. When she emerges from the pond, fully reborn. This part has multiple meanings. Evolutionists believe land animals descended from some animal which came from the water (I kept thinking of "I come from the water" by the Toadies. I don't think it has any significance, but it fits well.). There are also Christian sects where people are baptised in rivers and lakes, and Hindus also believe in power of water to purify people, specifically the Ganges. Anyway, water and birth/rebirth are synonymous.
As a side note, I believe Russian capsules landed in Siberia on the Tundra rather than at sea like the US capsules did, so they probably wouldn't have had provisions to land in the water.
I wanted to see this movie because of the soundtrack, and I thought it might be like Lost in Translation in that way. It's a very good traditional soundtrack. It sets the mood, and the ambient music is appropriately spacey.
For the record, all soundtracks are meant to manipulate the audience. It's a subtle clue that we take for granted.