ILNews

Hammerle on … 'Gravity,' 'Captain Phillips'

Robert Hammerle
October 23, 2013
Keywords
Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Gravity

Taking place on a damaged space station, Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” is the most challenging space adventure focusing on the human heart since Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968). It forces you to examine the ultimate purpose of life given the fact that we are all going to die.

What is incredible about Cuaron’s film is that there are only two actors on screen, Sandra Bullock (Ryan Stone) and George Clooney (Matt Kowalski). They are initially seen engaged in a lengthy space walk to repair their space station, seemingly standard fare until things go brutally wrong.

Bullock is a no-nonsense engineer while Clooney basically plays a version of himself. She’s as gloomy as he is lighthearted, and he enjoys trying to communicate with Houston Control with at least one story they haven’t already heard. Unfortunately, I can relate to Kowalski’s difficulty.

However, chaos engulfs the two colleagues when debris from a demolished Soviet space station enters their orbit. What’s worse, the debris is traveling

hammerle-gravity.jpg

 in excess of several thousands of miles per hour, and they have to get back into the station before being seriously hurt. When they fail, Stone is suddenly thrust into space, spinning uncontrollably as her oxygen supply dwindles. Kowalski hunts her down, eventually attaching her to himself with a long cord.

What happens next is an incredible study of what I have frequently called the human condition. As Kowalski tries to guide Stone to a neighboring station, he engages in a conversation that forces her to re-examine her life. You soon learn that she is all work and no play, something related to the tragic loss of a child years earlier.

As frivolous as it may sound, Kowalski succeeds marvelously at making fun of himself. Handsome, smart and sarcastic as hell, he tries to make Stone care about living even if it means making a transparent pass at her where he gets the color of her eyes wrong.

Central to the film, Clooney is always in a spacesuit except for a late scene that I don’t dare give away. In Bullock’s case, she is able to shed her suit when reaching a station and confronts the odds of getting safely back to Earth.

Physically injured after enduring the onslaught of the debris referred to above, there is a remarkable scene where Stone curls up into a fetal position, a tube in the background looking as if it was an umbilical cord. Clearly, the cinematography of Emmanuel Lubezki is as beautiful as it is mesmerizing.

The central question facing our beleaguered astronauts is whether life is worth living, particularly given the monstrous disappointments that eventually confront us all. Stated simply, is it worth sacrificing your life for another person?

In a sense, the question facing Bullock’s character was the same that Matt Damon confronted in “Saving Private Ryan” (1998), when a dying Tom Hanks looked up at the youngster and emphatically told him, “Earn this.”

Shouldn’t that be the legacy we impart to all of our children?

Captain Phillips

I know this is going to sound somewhat sacrilegious, but I was a bit disappointed with “Captain Phillips.” While it is full of the expected combination of tension and terror, I ended up feeling sorry for the Somali pirates.

When the Maersk Alabama was hijacked in 2009, it was the first American ship to be captured by pirates in over 200 years. The situation darkened quickly when the four Somali bandits kidnapped the American captain as they tried to flee in an enclosed Maersk escape vessel.

The film is at its best when it initially concentrates on the lives of the Somali pirates in their homeland. Living in destitution, a local mob recruits them to hold captured ships for ransom. You can fault them all you want for their illegal activity, but who can blame them for trying to elevate their standard of living where it was otherwise impossible to do so.
hammerle-captain.jpg As most of you know, Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, a dedicated American seaman living in Vermont. He knows that his trip from Dubai to Nairobi, Kenya, will flirt with danger, but that is the price he pays for doing his job.
Captain Phillips is a by-the-book guy, and so is his opponent, Muse, the leader of the Somali pirates. Played marvelously by Barkhad Abdi, it is a performance that could very well land him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.


As Muse and his comrades take over the Maersk, the last half of the film consistently loses strength as it devolves into an emotional duel between the two opposing leaders. Muse doesn’t want to hurt anyone and simply seeks to collect a ransom so that he and his compatriots can partially share a minor portion. There is a memorable moment on the escape boat where the captured Captain Phillips looks at Muse and says in words to the effect, “You don’t have to engage in kidnapping.” To which Muse soulfully responds, “Maybe not in America. Maybe not in America.”

When things go terribly wrong for Muse and his comrades, you feel their anxiety and fear. One of the four is a 14-year-old injured boy, and you simply hope that he finds a way to live.

While I truly admire director Paul Greengrass, he spends far more time focusing on the overwhelming power of the American military than he does the conditions in Somalia. Put another way, instead of killing pirates and bombing countries like Iraq, wouldn’t we have greater success by acting more like Mother Theresa as a nation than we do emulating Genghis Kahn?

While it is giving nothing away to tell you that Muse is presently doing a 33-year federal prison sentence here in Terre Haute, Ind., you can’t help but remember his wistful statement to Captain Phillips that he just wanted to move to America and buy a car in New York. Oddly, I hope there comes a day when he is able to do that.•

__________

Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis. When he is not in the courtroom or working diligently in his Pennsylvania Street office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters watching and preparing to review the latest films. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.
 

ADVERTISEMENT

  • truthbetold..
    Review says "As most of you know, Tom Hanks plays Captain Richard Phillips, a dedicated American seaman living in Vermont" most of us also know (and this has legal implications so should have been in this review in a legal paper) this movie is a work of fiction, fiction I say, son. As is the captain was not who was depicted to be. On another note, a criminal defense attorney feeling sorry for murderous pirates. Imagine that.
  • Good review!
    Hi Bob, We met this afternoon at a showing of "12 Years a Slave." (I helped save your seats for you). You mentioned reviewing movies, so I've been checking out your reviews. Good stuff! I once wrote movie reviews in my days a reporter, and I miss it. Looking forward to reading your review on "12 Years a Slave!" Nick McLain Public Policy Manager, CEDIA 7150 Winton Drive, Suite 300 Indianapolis, IN 46268 nmclain@cedia.org 317-328-4336 x124

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in Indiana Lawyer editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I have been on this program while on parole from 2011-2013. No person should be forced mentally to share private details of their personal life with total strangers. Also giving permission for a mental therapist to report to your parole agent that your not participating in group therapy because you don't have the financial mean to be in the group therapy. I was personally singled out and sent back three times for not having money and also sent back within the six month when you aren't to be sent according to state law. I will work to het this INSOMM's removed from this state. I also had twelve or thirteen parole agents with a fifteen month period. Thanks for your time.

  2. Our nation produces very few jurists of the caliber of Justice DOUGLAS and his peers these days. Here is that great civil libertarian, who recognized government as both a blessing and, when corrupted by ideological interests, a curse: "Once the investigator has only the conscience of government as a guide, the conscience can become ‘ravenous,’ as Cromwell, bent on destroying Thomas More, said in Bolt, A Man For All Seasons (1960), p. 120. The First Amendment mirrors many episodes where men, harried and harassed by government, sought refuge in their conscience, as these lines of Thomas More show: ‘MORE: And when we stand before God, and you are sent to Paradise for doing according to your conscience, *575 and I am damned for not doing according to mine, will you come with me, for fellowship? ‘CRANMER: So those of us whose names are there are damned, Sir Thomas? ‘MORE: I don't know, Your Grace. I have no window to look into another man's conscience. I condemn no one. ‘CRANMER: Then the matter is capable of question? ‘MORE: Certainly. ‘CRANMER: But that you owe obedience to your King is not capable of question. So weigh a doubt against a certainty—and sign. ‘MORE: Some men think the Earth is round, others think it flat; it is a matter capable of question. But if it is flat, will the King's command make it round? And if it is round, will the King's command flatten it? No, I will not sign.’ Id., pp. 132—133. DOUGLAS THEN WROTE: Where government is the Big Brother,11 privacy gives way to surveillance. **909 But our commitment is otherwise. *576 By the First Amendment we have staked our security on freedom to promote a multiplicity of ideas, to associate at will with kindred spirits, and to defy governmental intrusion into these precincts" Gibson v. Florida Legislative Investigation Comm., 372 U.S. 539, 574-76, 83 S. Ct. 889, 908-09, 9 L. Ed. 2d 929 (1963) Mr. Justice DOUGLAS, concurring. I write: Happy Memorial Day to all -- God please bless our fallen who lived and died to preserve constitutional governance in our wonderful series of Republics. And God open the eyes of those government officials who denounce the constitutions of these Republics by arbitrary actions arising out capricious motives.

  3. From back in the day before secularism got a stranglehold on Hoosier jurists comes this great excerpt via Indiana federal court judge Allan Sharp, dedicated to those many Indiana government attorneys (with whom I have dealt) who count the law as a mere tool, an optional tool that is not to be used when political correctness compels a more acceptable result than merely following the path that the law directs: ALLEN SHARP, District Judge. I. In a scene following a visit by Henry VIII to the home of Sir Thomas More, playwriter Robert Bolt puts the following words into the mouths of his characters: Margaret: Father, that man's bad. MORE: There is no law against that. ROPER: There is! God's law! MORE: Then God can arrest him. ROPER: Sophistication upon sophistication! MORE: No, sheer simplicity. The law, Roper, the law. I know what's legal not what's right. And I'll stick to what's legal. ROPER: Then you set man's law above God's! MORE: No, far below; but let me draw your attention to a fact I'm not God. The currents and eddies of right and wrong, which you find such plain sailing, I can't navigate. I'm no voyager. But in the thickets of law, oh, there I'm a forester. I doubt if there's a man alive who could follow me there, thank God... ALICE: (Exasperated, pointing after Rich) While you talk, he's gone! MORE: And go he should, if he was the Devil himself, until he broke the law! ROPER: So now you'd give the Devil benefit of law! MORE: Yes. What would you do? Cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? ROPER: I'd cut down every law in England to do that! MORE: (Roused and excited) Oh? (Advances on Roper) And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you where would you hide, Roper, the laws being flat? (He leaves *1257 him) This country's planted thick with laws from coast to coast man's laws, not God's and if you cut them down and you're just the man to do it d'you really think you would stand upright in the winds that would blow then? (Quietly) Yes, I'd give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety's sake. ROPER: I have long suspected this; this is the golden calf; the law's your god. MORE: (Wearily) Oh, Roper, you're a fool, God's my god... (Rather bitterly) But I find him rather too (Very bitterly) subtle... I don't know where he is nor what he wants. ROPER: My God wants service, to the end and unremitting; nothing else! MORE: (Dryly) Are you sure that's God! He sounds like Moloch. But indeed it may be God And whoever hunts for me, Roper, God or Devil, will find me hiding in the thickets of the law! And I'll hide my daughter with me! Not hoist her up the mainmast of your seagoing principles! They put about too nimbly! (Exit More. They all look after him). Pgs. 65-67, A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS A Play in Two Acts, Robert Bolt, Random House, New York, 1960. Linley E. Pearson, Atty. Gen. of Indiana, Indianapolis, for defendants. Childs v. Duckworth, 509 F. Supp. 1254, 1256 (N.D. Ind. 1981) aff'd, 705 F.2d 915 (7th Cir. 1983)

  4. "Meanwhile small- and mid-size firms are getting squeezed and likely will not survive unless they become a boutique firm." I've been a business attorney in small, and now mid-size firm for over 30 years, and for over 30 years legal consultants have been preaching this exact same mantra of impending doom for small and mid-sized firms -- verbatim. This claim apparently helps them gin up merger opportunities from smaller firms who become convinced that they need to become larger overnight. The claim that large corporations are interested in cost-saving and efficiency has likewise been preached for decades, and is likewise bunk. If large corporations had any real interest in saving money they wouldn't use large law firms whose rates are substantially higher than those of high-quality mid-sized firms.

  5. The family is the foundation of all human government. That is the Grand Design. Modern governments throw off this Design and make bureaucratic war against the family, as does Hollywood and cultural elitists such as third wave feminists. Since WWII we have been on a ship of fools that way, with both the elite and government and their social engineering hacks relentlessly attacking the very foundation of social order. And their success? See it in the streets of Fergusson, on the food stamp doles (mostly broken families)and in the above article. Reject the Grand Design for true social function, enter the Glorious State to manage social dysfunction. Our Brave New World will be a prison camp, and we will welcome it as the only way to manage given the anarchy without it.

ADVERTISEMENT