survival

Into Silence Header

Captivity/survivor narratives are hardly unfamiliar to our movie screens, and such films tend to come in bunches. Three years ago, for instance, both Buried and 127 Hours boasted solo or near-solo performances from two rising Hollywood stars who spent the duration of their films as the solitary face we see. But last month brought a prominent and concentrated group of such films, all met with overwhelmingly good reviews, promising major performances from their leading survivor types, and coasting on significant awards buzz. While each film explores near misses, false moments of possible redemption, the necessary instance of despair, and ultimately an incredible optimism in the possibility for human beings to survive a conflagration of elements that work overwhelmingly against them, each of these films go about this differently. Yet the major factor connecting J.C. Chandor’s All is Lost, Paul Greengrass’ Captain Phillips, and Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity is that they all stage humans’ fraught relationship to nature through the problems and failures of human commerce and its attendant production of waste. Their respective fights with or on the landscape of nature, in other words, are inaugurated by the failure of humans to wield their own devices.

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Boiling Point

In the cinematic world, protagonists face a lot of challenges. It can be Sasquatch or Yeti, German thieves or vaguely ethnic terrorists, zombies, aliens, werewolves, or vampires, and that’s just the exotic list. Our heroes might face down against a redneck hillbilly, a couple of gangbangers, or some cracked out carjacker. Simply put – it’s hard out there for a pimp. To combat these varied dangers, a hero must go armed. The proper choice of weapon depends on the threat faced, availability, and the environment. I’m not sure anyone has ever fought a hillbilly without the aide of a bow or crossbow, stopped a robbery without a pistol, or put down a zombie apocalypse without the use of a shotgun. In the face of such great dangers, you’d think that the protagonist would make sure that he and his companions were always well equipped to face adversity. But you’d be wrong.

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