By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on October 04, 2013

Stamp image Priority

Dear Andrew Thomas
Astronaut Advisor

Dear Andrew,

Why would someone like you dedicate his life to floating in space? It goes against one of the only immutable laws of nature we know--what goes up must come down. To fight gravity is to defy God Himself. Of course, that's why it's so appealing, right? Man's incompatibility with outer space is the premise that makes Alfonso Cuaron's new film so incredibly compelling, but it's not what makes it a masterpiece. Like the scientific breakthroughs of aeronautics, Gravity is innovative, important, and incredible to behold. It's everything cinema should be.

Much will be made of the film's technical achievements, and rightfully so. _Gravity _is immersive in ways that few Hollywood films even attempt. It's most obvious in the long takes and smooth, floating photography, but it's there too, in the minimal sound design and the surprisingly purposeful use of 3D. All these decisions had me, as an audience member, marveling at the film's construction. But the film also achieved the difficult dramatic effect of linking my emotional experience of the film to the fictional experiences of veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and medical engineer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock).

Watching their mission fall apart, Andrew, you must have had some sweaty flashbacks of your 177 days in orbit. I wouldn't be surprised if NASA started screening this film as part of its psychological training.

But it's not just the cold, unforgiving nature of space that had me gripping my seat. Bullock's performance accounts for much of the life-and-death tension. Her desperate reaching, terrified expressions, and frantic breathing had a decisively physical effect on my own wellbeing. Meanwhile, Clooney seems to be channeling some measure of Cmdr. Chris Hatfield's charm (but at least we know that's an authentic demeanor among some of your colleagues).

The bigger question I'm sure you'll be asked is "was the film in any way realistic?" Except I'm not really interested in the answer. For me, the film addressed some larger truths about our place in the universe and our growing fears about our alienation in the face of new technologies. Plus, beyond exploring the simple mechanics of surviving in space, there's an interesting metaphor about birth that I may save for another letter (in case you thought that fetus-looking shot was simply a visual reference to 2001: A Space Odyssey).

But, for space nuts like you, as well as any audiences looking for a genuine thrill, Gravity should defy expectations.

Mission accomplished,


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