GravityGravity is not so much a movie as it is an experience. It’s rare that I insist on seeing a film in one of the more expensive formats. Especially if you live in a  big city, movie tickets are obscenely expensive to begin with, and once you’ve tacked on 3D and Imax you’re looking upwards of 20$ BEFORE you’ve bought popcorn, candy, and a soda so big it boggles the minds of biologists everywhere that your bladder can hold it. But Gravity deserves the, pardon my pun, gravitas of the truly big screen. Shot on Imax 3D, it is the most necessary use of the medium since Avatar (and possibly ever).

One of the reasons why the 3D/Imax experience is so essential is that it doesn’t merely compliment the story. The vastness of space and the immediacy of danger are incredibly key to the film as a whole, and they were designed with the immersive experience of a next-generation movie theater in mind. It doesn’t just better illuminate Sandra Bullock’s plight, it turns you into the besieged astronaut.

Don’t worry – I have no desire to spoil anything from this movie deeper than what you can blatantly see from the trailer. Like I said, it needs to be experienced. Suffice it to say that the movie deserves to be called an Alfonso Cuaron film. Beneath the technical expertise that he brought to Children of Men (or, for that matter, which he brought when he revolutionized the Harry Potter films, turning them from the crystally glitter of Christopher Columbus’s early outings, to the more emotionally resonant second half of the series), Cuaron has always been obsessed with what it means to be human and how we handle great criss. Even Y Tu Mama Tambien (a movie which, upon first viewing at age 15, I may have loved more for how explicit and adult it seemed than for any actual technical expertise, but which holds up remarkably well ten years later) wanted to know how far we can push humanity. Gravity is similarly rooted in depth and careful characterization as we follow Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as they stand on the brink of total disaster, trapped in a vast emptiness that literally can’t hear their pain.

Despite its technical majesty, and make no mistake this movie is breathtakingly beautiful, it’s also a mostly perfect masterclass in how to tell a simple survival story. Despite one particularly heavy handed moment late in the film, Gravity handles its exposition and 2-actor structure (which is really a one-actor structure for most of the film) elegantly.

I don’t want to oversell the movie. I went to see it with a few friends who ended up incredibly disappointed because they went in expecting something completely different than what they got. The movie has more in common with The Edge or Into the Wild than it does with a James Cameron film. That isn’t to say it isn’t amazing or that you should lower your expectation – Alfonso Cuaron achieves everything he set out to. It just means to go in knowing what exactly you are seeing.

To really experience Gravity (and not just in the normal, two-feet planted on the ground way), you need to give yourself over to the experience of it, and utilize all the amazingness of modern cinema that make that possible. But if you don’t have a local Imax 3D theater, it’s still a spectacle to behold, and a beautiful, lyrical examination of the survival instinct and faith.