Thursday, May 19, 2016

Same music and same actor? Coincidence?

Two movies I love both have the same piece of music, God Yu Tekkem Laef Blong Mi, a pidgin English version of a hymn called Take My Life and Let It Be, written by English religious poet and hymnist Frances Havergal in 1874.

If you've never heard it, prepare to lose a few hours (and a lot of tears) with it on hard repeat – it's as haunting as it is beautiful.

It was sung by the Choir of All Saints, Honiara in the Solomon Islands and recorded by composer Hans Zimmer for Terrence Malick's 1998 film The Thin Red Line, about American soldiers losing and finding their souls (and lives) while fighting in the South Pacific in World War II. Its first appearance comes as the end credits start to roll.

God Yu Tekkem Laef Blong Mi popped up again years later, in 2009's Mr Nobody. Belgian director Jaco van Dormael's beautiful, brilliant and confusing what-if fantasy wonders what happens to the universe (and the universe of our hearts) from the choices we make, imagining multiple realities that split off from the actions of the hero, Nemo.

It plays during a particularly beautiful sequence that depicts the home of our souls before we're born. Represented as happily dancing children in a world made of light, each soul looks down on Earth and chooses the parents to be born to. When it has, two angels come down to put a finger to the lips (forming the philtrum) so that when the soul is born on Earth, it remembers nothing about what came before.

No real coincidence, right? Music appears in more than one movie all the time (I'll never forget the heartbreaking piece of music from the end of The Crow that later appeared in the trailer for Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor years later.

But one of the blink-and-you'll miss them A-list cast from The Thin Red Line (among George Clooney, John Travolta, Woody Harrelson, Adrien Brody, Sean Penn, Elias Koteas, John Cusack, John C Reilly and Nick Nolte) is the kid from Requiem For a Dream and Panic Room who'd be destined to play The Joker one day, Jared Leto.

And who plays the adult Nemo in Mr Nobody? Jared Leto.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Who is the real Ryan Stone?

Here's something that was never commented upon in all the praise (all of it justified) for Alfonso Cuaron's 2013 film Gravity. Who – really – is mission specialist Ryan Stone, as played by Sandra Bullock?

Early on before the trouble starts, mission specialist Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) is fitting a new project onto the Hubble space telescope. It's a data motherboard she has to insert into the memory slot, slide into place and boot up.

Problem is, Houston's not getting any reading from it, so she suggests an hour to reconfigure it. While she does so, suave mission commander Mike Kowalski (George Clooney) swings down in his EVA jetpack to chat her up. Among his cool as ice, very Clooney-esque charmers; 'they don't bankroll prototypes, not even for your pretty blue eyes.'

Minutes later, mission control in Houston (the voice of Ed Harris) gets on the horn to tell the nearby ISS crew and the Explorer crew – which Stone and Kowalski are working from – to drop what they're doing and get the hell out of Dodge.

The Russian government has destroyed a decommissioned satellite with a missile strike, and even though NASA telemetry originally thought the debris field would orbit far beneath the ISS and STS, it's now hit more vehicles, which have hit more in turn, and the cloud of shrapnel (travelling the speed of a bullet) has reached higher altitudes, both missions right in its path.

Now here's the thing. The Cold War's long over, but relations between the US and Russia have been frosty plenty of times since, as they were around the time Gravity was made and released.

Kowalski claims they don't bankroll prototypes, but here Stone is installing one. Either they do bankroll prototypes, or she's just not telling. And as mission commander, wouldn't Kowalski know what tasks were being carried out during his mission?

Then, at the same time as Stone is installing something that's either top secret or experimental (which Kowalski's just informed us NASA doesn't do), Russia fires a missile at one of its own satellites, something that's very difficult and expensive to do for any space-going nation, especially if the vehicle being targeted has been scrapped.

The usual method for disposing of orbiting vehicles when they're out of service is to use the last of their fuel to put them on a path that will see them burn up in the atmosphere or – if any debris comes through – fall harmlessly in the ocean.

Coincidence? Or is Ryan Stone more than just a doctor? Is she CIA, put in space to destroy an orbiter that might give Russia a military advantage, her 'prototype' really a weapon that took out the Russian satellite?

Or maybe she's a Russian spy, groomed for years to enter the US space program, sent into space with a bogus mission just to assure the Explorer will lie in the path of the cloud of destruction. Did Stone – really Major Ryaneski Stonaslavski – have a plan to escape before the debris hit, one she ran out of time to enact?

Or did she never intend to leave the shuttle, ready to sacrifice her life for the cause? When she survived and found herself drifting helplessly in space, might she have realised that if she kept up the pretense of being Dr Ryan Stone of Lake Zurich, Illinois, NASA and Kowalski – still wearing his jetpack and searching in the darkness for her – would save her life?

Think about that.