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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

Gravity

By
Joseph McAleer
Source: Catholic News Service


Sandra Bullock and George Clooney star in a scene from the movie "Gravity."
Hold on tight for the ride of your life in "Gravity" (Warner Bros.), a lost-in-space adventure as exhilarating as it is terrifying.

Director Alfonso Cuaron ("Children of Men"), who co-wrote the screenplay with his son Jonas, serves up a modern-day horror story with top-notch performances and dazzling 3-D cinematography that envelops the audience in the majesty of space.

The film's life-or-death scenario evokes the spirit of the 2011 movie "Apollo 18." But the danger here doesn't come from aliens as it did in that feature. Instead, it results from all-too-human technology gone badly wrong.

Amid the mayhem, "Gravity" has another, deeper story to tell, as the nearness of death provokes reflections on mortality and the afterlife.

The space shuttle is in orbit 370 miles above Earth, and astronauts Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) are outside it, making repairs to the Hubble Space Telescope. The two crewmates are chalk and cheese: Stone the cool, reserved scientist on her first mission; Kowalski the cocky veteran, a fun-loving space cowboy with the gift of the gab who's savoring his final voyage.

"Houston, I have a bad feeling about this mission," Kowalski quips lightheartedly to mission control before breaking into another yarn as his favorite country music plays in the background.

Kowalski's levity is misplaced. When the Russians launch a missile against a spy satellite, it causes a chain reaction in space, raining debris on the astronauts. Within seconds, the shuttle is destroyed, and Kowalski and Stone are the only survivors, cut off from Earth and spiraling into outer space.

What ensues is "E.T." in reverse, as our plucky marooned humans search for a way to go home (where gravity is taken for granted). With Kowalski steering his jet pack and Stone on a tether, they make their way to the nearest oasis, the International Space Station, where more challenges await.

To describe what happens next would be a spoiler. Suffice it to say that, in the deafening silence of space, the duo has plenty of time to meditate as they stare death in the face.

For Stone, this is an epiphany. She laments that she is alone in the world, mourning the loss of her only child in an accident years ago. "Who will pray for my soul?" she asks.

While she admits that she has never prayed herself, she regrets that no one ever taught her how.

Such feelings are hardly surprising when the possibility of death is imminent. But "Gravity"—which provides a rare combination of enlightenment and excitement—uses these sentiments as stepping stones toward a resolution that viewers of faith will find both satisfying and refreshingly pro-life.

In view of its underlying significance, and despite the elements listed below, some parents may consider "Gravity" acceptable for mature adolescents.

The film contains scenes of intense peril and horror, brief gore, at least one use of profanity and a few crude expressions. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III—adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13—parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
Joseph McAleer is a guest reviewer for Catholic News Service.





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Joan of Arc: 
		<p>Burned at the stake as a heretic after a politically-motivated trial, Joan was beatified in 1909 and canonized in 1920.</p>
		<p>Born of a fairly well-to-do peasant couple in Domremy-Greux (southeast of Paris), Joan was only 12 when she experienced a vision and heard voices that she later identified as Sts. Michael the Archangel, Catherine of Alexandria, and Margaret of Antioch.</p>
		<p>During the Hundred Years War, she led French troops against the English and recaptured the cities of Orléans and Troyes. This enabled Charles VII to be crowned as king in Reims in 1429. Captured near Compiegne the following year, she was sold to the English and placed on trial for heresy and witchcraft. Professors at the University of Paris supported Bishop Pierre Cauchon of Beauvis, the judge at her trial; Cardinal Henry Beaufort of Winchester, England, participated in the questioning of Joan in prison. In the end, she was condemned for wearing men's clothes. The English resented France's military success–to which Joan contributed. </p>
		<p>On this day in 1431, she was burned at the stake in Rouen, and her ashes were scattered in the Seine River. A second Church trial 25 years later nullified the earlier verdict, which was reached under political pressure.</p>
		<p>Remembered by most people for her military exploits, Joan had a great love for the sacraments, which strengthened her compassion toward the poor. Popular devotion to her increased greatly in 19th-century France and later among French soldiers during World War I. Theologian George Tavard writes that her life "offers a perfect example of the conjunction of contemplation and action" because her spiritual insight is that there should be a "unity of heaven and earth."</p>
		<p>Joan of Arc has been the subject of many books, plays, operas, and movies. </p>
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