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

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Indiana State Bar Association

Indianapolis Bar Association

Evansville Bar Association

Allen County Bar Association

Indiana Lawyer on Facebook

facebook
ADVERTISEMENT
Subscribe to Indiana Lawyer
  1. I can understand a 10 yr suspension for drinking and driving and not following the rules,but don't you think the people who compleate their sentences and are trying to be good people of their community,and are on the right path should be able to obtain a drivers license to do as they please.We as a state should encourage good behavior instead of saying well you did all your time but we can't give you a license come on.When is a persons time served than cause from where I'm standing,its still a punishment,when u can't have the freedom to go where ever you want to in car,truck ,motorcycle,maybe their should be better programs for people instead of just throwing them away like daily trash,then expecting them to change because they we in jail or prison for x amount of yrs.Everyone should look around because we all pay each others bills,and keep each other in business..better knowledge equals better community equals better people...just my 2 cents

  2. I was wondering about the 6 million put aside for common attorney fees?does that mean that if you are a plaintiff your attorney fees will be partially covered?

  3. I expressed my thought in the title, long as it was. I am shocked that there is ever immunity from accountability for ANY Government agency. That appears to violate every principle in the US Constitution, which exists to limit Government power and to ensure Government accountability. I don't know how many cases of legitimate child abuse exist, but in the few cases in which I knew the people involved, in every example an anonymous caller used DCS as their personal weapon to strike at innocent people over trivial disagreements that had no connection with any facts. Given that the system is vulnerable to abuse, and given the extreme harm any action by DCS causes to families, I would assume any degree of failure to comply with the smallest infraction of personal rights would result in mandatory review. Even one day of parent-child separation in the absence of reasonable cause for a felony arrest should result in severe penalties to those involved in the action. It appears to me, that like all bureaucracies, DCS is prone to interpret every case as legitimate. This is not an accusation against DCS. It is a statement about the nature of bureaucracies, and the need for ADDED scrutiny of all bureaucratic actions. Frankly, I question the constitutionality of bureaucracies in general, because their power is delegated, and therefore unaccountable. No Government action can be unaccountable if we want to avoid its eventual degeneration into irrelevance and lawlessness, and the law of the jungle. Our Constitution is the source of all Government power, and it is the contract that legitimizes all Government power. To the extent that its various protections against intrusion are set aside, so is the power afforded by that contract. Eventually overstepping the limits of power eliminates that power, as a law of nature. Even total tyranny eventually crumbles to nothing.

  4. Being dedicated to a genre keeps it alive until the masses catch up to the "trend." Kent and Bill are keepin' it LIVE!! Thank you gentlemen..you know your JAZZ.

  5. Hemp has very little THC which is needed to kill cancer cells! Growing cannabis plants for THC inside a hemp field will not work...where is the fear? From not really knowing about Cannabis and Hemp or just not listening to the people teaching you through testimonies and packets of info over the last few years! Wake up Hoosier law makers!

ADVERTISEMENT