Gravity

Article by   October 2013
gravity93.jpgSpoiler alert: This review details key scenes in the movie and its ending.

He determines the number of the stars; he gives to all of them their names. (Ps. 147:4)

Movies like Gravity gave birth to terms like groundbreaking. After audiences were wowed by Alfonso Cuarón's near-perfect, Children of Men, they were anxious to see his directorial follow-up, and Gravity does not disappoint. In my humble opinion, it will receive Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Cinematography, and Visual Effects, just to name a few.

In many ways, it's unlike anything you've seen. I've been fairly negative towards 3-D movies, but 3-D was created for blockbusters like Gravity. Seeing the film this way added a layer of immensity to the galactic landscape. So much was this the case, that I often found myself feeling a certain level of uneasiness simply because of the authenticity afforded by 3-D. I'm obviously unable to speak to personal experiences in deep space, but Gravity simulates, in a degree previously unknown in film, what one would experience when leaving earth's atmosphere. Overall, the attention to detail throughout will give audiences very little to critique and have film students discussing Gravity for quite some time.

Even though the visuals of Gravity will wow audiences for years to come, the movie itself is as simplistic as it is innovative. For starters, there are only two characters. Because of this, dialogue is fairly limited. The plot is also pretty straight-forward. But don't get me wrong: there is depth of plot and character within this film. 

One way this simplicity is seen is in the use of extended shots. Viewers familiar with Cuarón's previous film, Children of Men, will readily recognize this element in Gravity. While these shots are not simple in the sense that they are easy to execute, they appear as such to most viewers. Fans of these camera angles will appreciate the lengthy opening scene, as well as several of the same scenes during the course of the picture. Shots like these go against the grain in this genre, which often employs fast-paced cuts. Filmmakers must really be on top of their game for extended scenes to make it to the final cut, and Gravity uses them with eloquence.

Audiences should be aware that this movie is extremely tense. The tagline reads, "Don't let go," and this movie rarely loosens its grip on the audience from start to finish. The movie gets a PG-13 rating for this tension, as well as some disturbing images and language that may be uttered when debris is flying at you at 20,000 miles per hour. 

There is much to discuss when it comes to a film of this caliber, but I'll limit myself to two noteworthy themes.

Fragility of Mankind

Watching the movie, the thought that continually came to mind was how small mankind really is. Yes, I know some will view Gravity and praise mankind for the ingenuity to explore the final frontier. The film lends itself to such an interpretation, for much of the dialogue is humanistic. I found myself, however, recalling the verse, "They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint" (Isa. 40:31b). At first glance, this verse seems out of place when speaking to the weakness of mankind. However, what does this verse imply? The prophet is telling us that man is extremely weak and any strength we have is ultimately found in One greater than we.

Isaiah reminds us that men are always weary, that humans are always growing faint. We are a mist. A worm. We are small creatures and Gravity reminds us of that. I did not see mankind's triumph; I saw rather his helplessness. The snail's-pace which afflicts every astronaut in an atmosphere sans gravity, the lack of oxygen, the need for a spacesuit - these painfully showcase how limited we are. By contrast, as Isaiah demonstrates masterfully in the fortieth chapter of his prophecy, and Gravity shows in scene after scene, how immense God must be!

Thus, throughout Gravity, I found myself attempting to fathom the One who has the whole world in His hands. I caught myself straining my finite mind to truly understand what kind of Being could possibly name (and remember) every star. Gravity reminds us that we are very small and God is beyond any notion of greatness our tiny, creaturely minds can comprehend.

Self-sacrifice

Another aspect of Gravity I appreciated was the theme of self-sacrifice. It's amazing to witness Dr. Ryan Stone's (Sandra Bullock) persistence in the face of relentless trials. Just when you think she has a minute to take a breath (pun intended), more affliction comes her way. Trial after trial is heaped upon her, yet she continues to press on.

Even though she is the sole survivor of this ordeal, it would not be so if it weren't for her fellow astronaut, Matt Kowalski (George Clooney). Stone and Kowalski find themselves in a position that leaves them with a decision no one wants to make. Kowalski must untether himself from Stone in order to save her life. It is a sacrifice most every human hopes they would be willing to make, but one we most likely will never be faced with. That being said, the look on Kowalski's face gave that scene a depth that isn't often present onscreen. He seemed truly tormented. Instead of the typical heroism of Hollywood, Kowalski appears to have a passing moment of despair over the decision he must make. Even still, he grants to Stone what he lays aside for himself.

Any time Christians witness depictions of self-sacrifice it should always point us to the greatest sacrifice of all time. Of course, the analogy stops here, because our Lord Jesus Christ lay down his life, not for his friends, but for his enemies. As good as Gravity was in depicting self-sacrifice, not even being willing to die in space does justice to the depth of God's love for us in Christ.

Concluding Thoughts

While notions of the afterlife are somewhat vague and universalistic in Gravity, I found it encouraging that any notion of the afterlife was discussed in a movie like this. I even think Stone's submersion in water could be symbolic of a new birth - a baptism of sorts. Perhaps the scene was meant to show her letting go of the despair of losses of the past that gripped her, setting the stage for a future filled with hope.

Whatever conclusions you draw from Gravity, the accomplishment of a film like this must be acknowledged. Such a picture does not stifle the imagination, like so many do; rather, it seems to feed it. And feeding our imagination is something Christians should applaud, because, as Tim Keller states, "It takes the imagination to sense something has meaning because we cannot cognitively grasp the glory of God. The glory of God is beyond our ability to understand or describe. The imagination goes beyond what we can think of and rises to lofty heights where it contemplates the glory of God." (1)

Rev. John H. Perritt is a DMin. student at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and youth minister at Pear Orchard Presbyterian Church in Ridgeland, Mississippi.

NOTES:
1. Tim Keller, It Was Good: Making Art to the Glory of God. pg.120

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