Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close: Gravity in IMAX 3D (Spoiler-Free)

by Danielle Owen

So true.

After enduring endless hours of flashcards and tedious highlighting, I woke from my 10-minute power nap groggy – but with a plan. I muddled together $21 that would have otherwise gone to Insomnia Cookies and boarded the downtown 1 with a friend. Together, we headed to a 12:45am showing of Alfonso Cuarón’s hyped-up new film, Gravity. The premise both terrified and intrigued me: how could 90 minutes of Sandra Bullock floating around in space garner such universal acclaim? We entered the almost vacant theater, took our seats in the exact middle, and suffered through an unnecessary amount of trailers. Gravity then began with the following words on a plain black screen:

At 372 miles above the Earth,

there is nothing to carry sound

no air pressure

no oxygen.

Life in space is impossible.


Prepare to be blown away.

We were immediately startled by a superfluously loud cacophony – my friend and I, along with several others in the theater, had to cover our ears. It was painfully loud. Within the first 20 seconds of Gravity, the audience has been made uncomfortable and tense. IMAX suggests that movies aren’t meant to be simply enjoyed, but rather, experienced. The best movies are those that disregard the blood pressure of the audience – and at the outset of Gravity, you’ve been made aware that this will not be easy viewing. Truly, the next 90 minutes were highly concentrated with nail-biting terror.

Gravity was chilling in an intensely beautiful and emotional way. Cuarón masterfully contrasts the hostility of the universe with the physical and emotional fragility of the human condition. My friend and I specifically enjoyed the characterization of Dr. Ryan Stone, a female protagonist who doesn’t fit the “strong female character” trope and portrays a breadth of emotions; she is vulnerable, intelligent, persistent, and fearful all at once. It’s a deeply symbolic movie that refers back to her past and her struggle to find the will to live. Bullock’s performance is poignant and stunning while Clooney is the weakest link in the entire movie (which means it must be a pretty damn good movie). His version of the charismatic and charming Matt Kowalski has been likened by many to Buzz Lightyear.

All things considered, go see Gravity. It lives up to the hype. Spend $22, get there early, sit in the exact middle, and allow yourself to be immersed in and terrified by a universe that is completely indifferent to the plight of humanity. After the movie, I returned back to my dorm with ringing ears and a plethora of existential anxiety. It was worth it.

Also, check out the amazing soundtrack!

Danielle Owen is a first-year at Barnard and a staff writer for The Nine Ways of Knowing.

Images courtesy of Danielle Owen and the thrill.

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