Gravity (2013)

Gravity (2013, PG-13) starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney tells the fictional story of Dr. Ryan Stone and Matt Kowalsi, two astronauts who wind up adrift in space after their shuttle is destroyed while they are out on a space walk. Floating alone together in the immensity of space, connected only by a tether and limited supply of oxygen, the two struggle against all odds to make their way safely back to earth. This is the basic plot, and the film is faithful to it. It thus stands in the tradition of Cast Away and Alive, movies about people in difficult situations simply trying to keep on living and hopefully get back home.

The film has gotten mixed reviews. People who are used to lots of explosions, fast paced action, and romantic sub-plots were not happy with the film, complaining that it was "boring." But other sorts of viewers - dare I say, more intelligent ones - have given the film rave reviews. I would not say Gravity is boring, but I can see why some would say otherwise. Mexican director Alfonso Cuaron tried very hard to simulate the silence and stillness of outer space, with the result that for much of the film we hear little noise save the breathing of the characters or faint hum of equipment. The effect is chilling and heightens the sense of isolation that must be felt by characters adrift in space. With no medium through which sound wave can travel, even massive phenomenon like the explosion of the International Space Station happen silently. So, yes, the film makes you think, and it forgoes a lot of 'action' in order to connect in a more profound manner, and I think it was successful in this.

Most commentators have noted the cinematographic beauty of the film. Watching this movie, especially in 3-D, makes it feel like you are really in outer space. It was an artistic masterpiece. I do not know whether Alfonso Cuaron is a Christian or not, but the depictions of earth, the stars, the order of the universe brought to mind Psalm 19, "The heavens are telling the glory of God..."

Yet the film, for all its beauty, also inspires a significant amount of anxiety. Many of us have ruminated about what it would be like to be adrift in space...at least I have. For me, being adrift in space has always signified the ultimate solitude, a loneliness without hope. And if you beauty of creation is palpable in this film, so is the horror at the thought of being cut off from it, drifting helplessly into the outer darkness.

The film does have a strong religious theme, whether the director understood it or not. For all her scientific knowledge, when Dr. Ryan Stone finds herself adrift, she explains in a monologue that she is cut off from everything, even from God, because she has never been taught how to pray. The cleavage between Dr. Stone and the earth is reflective of her distance between herself and God. Later, when she returns to earth, her first words are two simple words of gratitude: "Thank you" she breathes to the Lord upon reaching terra firma. This is the answer to her earlier query about how to pray; the foundation of prayer is simple gratitude for God, gratitude for who He is, for what He has done. Only after uttering this "Thank you" does she stand - and this final shot of Dr. Stone standing in the dirt is the only scene of anybody 'standing' in the whole film, as the rest of it all takes place in weightlessness. Thus only in gratitude can we truly "stand" in God's grace.

I am reading a lot of this into the film, granted. But it is not that much of a stretch, and I imagine the director was not ignorant of it.

Not to say the film was flawless. One thing that rubbed me the wrong way was that the movie was billed as starring Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, and early on you get used to the idea of the two of them together. But Clooney's character is killed off so early in the film that I find it hard to justify placing his name along side Bullock's. True the "presence" of Clooney's dead character continues to be a factor in the movie, but still, his death came so quickly and in such a forced manner that it seems that putting his name on the marquis was just a marketing trick.

There is no nudity, but a few scenes of Bullock floating around in a tank top and shorts. I thought I may have heard a blasphemy, but I am not sure; there was a lot of explosions and I think I may have caught one, but I can't say for certain. Since I am not certain, I am going to say it was not there, but I may be wrong.

I'd give the film three out of three, provided there really is no blasphemy and that you see it in 3-D.