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“Gravity” a different kind of situation

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“Gravity” a different kind of situation

Hint: This poster also contains the movie's theme. Deep space meets deep thought.

Hint: This poster also contains the movie’s theme. Deep space meets deep thought.

There’s a radio play I did one time when I was in youth theater about five astronauts floating around in space after their ship explodes. At least that’s how I think it happened. I can’t remember the exact details, or the name of it frankly, but I do remember how we staged it.

The director had all the actors dress in plain clothes and sit on tall stools under the proscenium arch. He placed a spotlight on each character. As each character died, their spotlight turned off.

I wish I could remember that play, because it’s got the same emotional gut-punch as the movie “Gravity,” which opened this weekend.

There are several moments in”Gravity” that captured the essence of dealing with the inner turmoil of knowing you will die. The revelation occurs at an accelerated pace, of course, hastened by the destruction of a Russian satellite that sends shards of debris traveling around the earth like speeding bullets. 

The astronauts, played by George Clooney (Matt Kowalksi) and Sandra Bullock (Ryan Stone), realize their innocuous space walk has turned into a sprint across a shooting range. Stone struggles with her own memories of the accidental death of her 4-year-old daughter as the two astronauts contemplate the gravity of their predicament.

Director Alfonso Cuarón shot the movie using 3D technology developed during the shooting of James Cameron’s “Avatar.” Until now, “Avatar” was the only move I had seen that effectively employed the use of 3D special effects. They didn’t look grafted onto the movie after the fact.

Cameron doesn’t share Cuarón gifts as a story teller. “Avatar” leaves a legacy of technical achievement, while “Gravity” will likely become the topic of many a church sermon. 

The movie, for all of its technical thrills, swims in rich metaphors about the nature of life and death. The script deftly pivots from scientific horrors to deep psychological pain.

There’s also a nudge toward perspective too. Space can be a horrific, desolate place but also a source of ceaseless beauty. The director wasn’t afraid to pull out into a wide shot of the two lead characters, even during their bleakest moments, in order to show us the beauty of the sun creeping over the horizon or the Northern Lights moving like green neon snakes across the sky.

The movie will be considerably more durable than the astronauts’ space shuttle, or the international space station for that matter. The “never quit” message remains timeless.

When you’re thrown into the chaotic void of infinite space, claw your way back to Earth.

This is totally unrelated, but damn Sandra Bullock looks good.