There's an ad that plays before you watch a movie in an AMC theater where this girl sits down in a row of seats with her friends, and as the lights lower and the movie begins, these vines wrap around her, eventually growing into some monstrous forest that literally transports her somewhere else entirely. She's no longer inside a movie theater with her friends -- she's on this immersive adventure in a completely unfamiliar environment. It's a neat ad that reminds us why we love going to the movies in the first place. We love those moviegoing experiences that take us for a ride, be it physical, emotional, spiritual or all three. We go to the movie theater and we seek something memorable. Something we can talk about for years; something that changes the way we consume entertainment.
Something like Gravity.
Unfortunately, these monumental all-timers are few and far between. Sure, we still go to the movies and laugh, and cry, and shout and cheer. But in an age that forces us to consume content every second of the day, it's becoming increasingly harder to push through into that special place reserved for the stories you tell your kids, or the date that goes all night as you each recall your most memorable moments in a movie theater. These times -- these memories -- they don't come so easily, and so when a film like Gravity strolls into theaters carrying with it this incredibly powerful cinematic experience, you need to stop and pay attention. You need to give in. You need to grab your closest friends, clear the entire night and let this one wrap its depleting oxygen supply around your throat for a couple of hours because they may just be some of the most memorable hours you ever spend in a movie theater.
This is where I can tell you what you already know: that Gravity takes place entirely in space, above the planet Earth, as two astronauts (played by George Clooney and Sandra Bullock) continually find themselves in one pickle after the next when their space station is torn to pieces during a devastating, uncontrollable accident. What you don't already know (but might be able to gather from the various trailers) is that Gravity doesn't stop attacking your senses. At times it's a meditation on life and death and what happens when you're trapped between the two, but mostly it's a rush, plain and simple. This is one long visual orgasm that doesn't end until after you've left the theater.
Even when you try to count how many long, heart-pounding one-takes director Alfonso Cuarón finds himself lost in, the film pulls you away. Even when you squint to try to figure out how a particular special effect was created, the film grabs and shakes you back to its universe. And as we literally float from scene to scene with this quiet ferociousness wondering how these characters are going to get out of the next life-or-death situation, we're torn between needing a resolution and wanting the ride to continue. Watching Gravity is like an extreme workout at the gym, in that your heart races nonstop from one exercise to the next. But those brief moments of quiet between lifting or running or squatting are a thing of beauty. You embrace them and caress them, but most of all you feel them. You feel yourself in the midst of this fight that's bigger than you -- you're tired, worn out, defeated -- and yet you always find a way to push forward. You always find a way to finish what you started because we're humans, and we feed on the feelings that take over once we've accomplished an unrelenting task.
These are tremendous feelings. These are the ones you remember. Gravity celebrates these feelings -- the drive inside all of us to succeed, to survive, to accomplish our goals -- with such force and beauty that you forget you're inside a movie theater. It's pretty astounding to watch unfold, and if there's a negative it's that the nonstop space action almost takes away from the film's sweeter, more emotional themes of death and rebirth. How sometimes you just have to let go.
We can talk more about Gravity's many memorable, edge-of-your-seat action sequences, but those are best left to be discovered by someone who's ready to hand themselves over to the moviegoing gods. Let that be you because Gravity is the kind of film that reminds you why going to the movie theater is still such a sacred experience. That there really is nothing like sitting amongst friends and strangers in a dark room as you all experience the rush of emotions that only come from a giant screen that does nothing but feed your imagination.
Let you devour Gravity, and let it be an experience you remember for years to come.
Just don't forget to breathe.
Gravity hits theaters on October 4. Note: This review originally ran last month during the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
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