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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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Junipero Serra: In 1776, when the American Revolution was beginning in the east, another part of the future United States was being born in California. That year a gray-robed Franciscan founded Mission San Juan Capistrano, now famous for its annually returning swallows. San Juan was the seventh of nine missions established under the direction of this indomitable Spaniard. 
<p>Born on Spain’s island of Mallorca, Serra entered the Franciscan Order, taking the name of St. Francis’ childlike companion, Brother Juniper. Until he was 35, he spent most of his time in the classroom—first as a student of theology and then as a professor. He also became famous for his preaching. Suddenly he gave it all up and followed the yearning that had begun years before when he heard about the missionary work of St. Francis Solanus in South America. Junipero’s desire was to convert native peoples in the New World. </p><p>Arriving by ship at Vera Cruz, Mexico, he and a companion walked the 250 miles to Mexico City. On the way Junipero’s left leg became infected by an insect bite and would remain a cross—sometimes life-threatening—for the rest of his life. For 18 years he worked in central Mexico and in the Baja Peninsula. He became president of the missions there. </p><p>Enter politics: the threat of a Russian invasion south from Alaska. Charles III of Spain ordered an expedition to beat Russia to the territory. So the last two <i>conquistadors</i>—one military, one spiritual—began their quest. José de Galvez persuaded Junipero to set out with him for present-day Monterey, California. The first mission founded after the 900-mile journey north was San Diego (1769). That year a shortage of food almost canceled the expedition. Vowing to stay with the local people, Junipero and another friar began a novena in preparation for St. Joseph’s day, March 19, the scheduled day of departure. On that day, the relief ship arrived. </p><p>Other missions followed: Monterey/Carmel (1770); San Antonio and San Gabriel (1771); San Luís Obispo (1772); San Francisco and San Juan Capistrano (1776); Santa Clara (1777); San Buenaventura (1782). Twelve more were founded after Serra’s death. </p><p>Junipero made the long trip to Mexico City to settle great differences with the military commander. He arrived at the point of death. The outcome was substantially what Junipero sought: the famous “Regulation” protecting the Indians and the missions. It was the basis for the first significant legislation in California, a “Bill of Rights” for Native Americans. </p><p>Because the Native Americans were living a nonhuman life from the Spanish point of view, the friars were made their legal guardians. The Native Americans were kept at the mission after Baptism lest they be corrupted in their former haunts—a move that has brought cries of “injustice” from some moderns. </p><p>Junipero’s missionary life was a long battle with cold and hunger, with unsympathetic military commanders and even with danger of death from non-Christian native peoples. Through it all his unquenchable zeal was fed by prayer each night, often from midnight till dawn. He baptized over 6,000 people and confirmed 5,000. His travels would have circled the globe. He brought the Native Americans not only the gift of faith but also a decent standard of living. He won their love, as witnessed especially by their grief at his death. He is buried at Mission San Carlo Borromeo, Carmel, and was beatified in 1988. Pope Francis canonized him in Washington, D.C., on September 23, 2015.</p> American Catholic Blog Hope and faith can outshine the darkness of evil. However dense the darkness may appear, our hope for the triumph of the light is stronger still. Though violence continues to stain us with blood, the shadows of death can be dissipated with one act of light.

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