Thursday, October 10, 2013

Gravity - A Heavenly Review

I saw Gravity yesterday at the Studio Movie Grill in Wheaton for six bucks. Yes sir, I wanted to see the film that had gotten a 97% approval on Rotten Tomatoes, but I wasn’t risking any big money ya understand! ;)

Afterwards, I walked out saying “That was the best six dollars I have EVER spent!” I saw all the human and emotional reasons the critics would’ve loved it for – especially the visual messages about space exploration, human achievement, the brevity of life, and more.

It is a beautiful film because of the huge amount of special effects – it is set 99% in space - but the budget is ameliorated by having only two principals on screen for 99.5% of the movie: George Clooney and Sandra Bullock. This means you spend a LOT of time listening to their dialogues and monologues.

So it is Character-Driven. You like these people. You want them to live, to survive the Tragedy They Are Innocent Victims Of.

The Story
Clooney and Bullock play two astronauts finishing a long mission aboard the Discovery space shuttle: he’s the vet and she’s the rookie mission specialist.

Tragedy hits when a Russian satellite hits another satellite in high orbit. But wait, it gets worse – that SIMPLE event begins a cascade of OTHER satellites crashing into each other.

This means that our heroes are on their way to being hit by fragments of several dead satellites traveling 10 times faster than a bullet.

And then, of course, it is compounded: since the astronauts are orbiting the Earth every 90 minutes, they have to go through the SAME nightmare again and again. That is the secret ingredient that keeps the clock ticking and the suspense building. The viewer feels like he or she is watching a brutal baseball game, where the batter gets beaned and heads to first base - only to find every baseman between him and home has a bat to smack him with as soon as he gets close.

I found myself, jaded geek that I am, cringing and covering my mouth as this juggernaut of debris came bursting through the spacecraft. It was a visceral thrill let me tell you.


Now if that isn’t good enough, Gravity takes the “coming up for air moments” and uses them wisely..

Gravity visually taps into much of our hopes and dreams and beliefs and even myths of humanity. But not all at once, and not at first. As I said, the touches happen in the quieter moments, then slowly build, with one cinematographer’s touch here, another there and finally, in the last ten minutes, a cascade of visual choices that are perfectly in line with the story – logical, fair and believable – but also evoke images from mythical epics, everything from The Fall of Lucifer and His Angels [or The Fall of Icarus] to The Rise of Man.

Some of the iconography is obvious – from the placement of the Russian Orthodox icon in a Soyuz command module to the statue of Buddha in its Chinese counterpart – and how one capsule is a precursor to being saved by another. The filmmaker is making a statement beyond multi-culturalism to saying what he believes is a better way to be rescued or to live, as one craft preceds the other in “saving the day.”

But biggest image of all is found in the Christ-likeness in action of the principals, and their unexpected return later in the film. This is beyond iconography and philosophy and theology: this is an act of love. Right there. On screen.

And that is what marks the film as powerful and epic in and of itself: the film is about the human story of salvation. Unintentionally, perhaps, but it is there. Our fall. Our hopes and dreams. Our willingness to survive and live. Our gratitude to those who save us.

Now if at this point you are mystified, don’t fret. My observations are given through eyes and a heart opened by Christ. I know I see imperfectly, but I can’t help but see it and enjoy it.

So after all is said and done, the success of Gravity lies not in its excellent special effects, its visual beauty and thrilling action sequences, the great acting of its principals [Academy Award nominations for sure] but rather in that we the viewers get a chance to see, once again, Christ saves – and those who want to save others must be cast into His likeness, as happened in this film

Go see Gravity. You’ll enjoy it. You may not share my effusiveness or my observations. You may merely like it as a thriller set in space. Fair enough.

But I truly think you will enjoy it.

Amen.

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