Sandra Bullock and George Clooney in Gravity.

With Gravity, we finally get a big-event movie that delivers the thrills that have been absent from too many large-scale films this year. This is what going to the movies is supposed to be about.

I sound like a movie-critic quote machine, and I don’t care. I want to make this perfectly clear: You should see this movie—and shell out the extra couple of bucks for 3-D, because the whole idea is to physically make you feel like you are lost in space. This is a rare 3-D movie in which those glasses really add to the experience. The film often puts the viewer inside a spacesuit, looking down at the Earth or, if the character happens to be tumbling in space, looking through a helmet as the Earth rhythmically passes by.

If you are one of those people getting nauseated by your iPhone IOS 7 update and all of those crazy moving graphics, you might want to go see Don Jon instead.

In her first true science-fiction role since Demolition Man, Sandra Bullock puts herself through the ringer as Ryan Stone, an astronaut on her first space shuttle flight. Her mission commander, played by a charismatic and calming George Clooney, ribs her about her upset tummy as he flies around space in a jet pack while she works tirelessly on the Hubble.

They then receive an ominous message from Earth: The Russians have purposefully destroyed one of their satellites, and this has set off a chain reaction, destroying multiple satellites—and creating loads of fast-moving space debris. They’re told it shouldn’t be a problem. Moments later, mission command revises that theory and lets the astronauts know they’re totally screwed. Space debris collides with the shuttle, and the movie is off and running.

Director/co-writer Alfonso Cuarón delivers the action seamlessly, and the effect is unrelenting. When Ryan reaches out to grab something to prevent herself from spinning out into space, you will be straining right along with her. However, Cuarón isn’t just about the thrills: He and son Jonás have written a screenplay that packs plenty of emotional wallop. Bullock, who has discussed how difficult the shoot was, is both physically and emotionally taxed, and her haunting performance will surely put her in Oscar contention.

Actually, just about every aspect of this film should find itself in an Oscar race, from the amazing cinematography, to the gripping writing, to the amazing feats achieved through sound. Gravity would be a trippy experience if you took it in with your eyes closed. What Cuarón and his crew do with sound will astound you.

Clooney, in a part that originally was meant for Robert Downey Jr., looks like a guy who should be floating around in space. The man’s mug just screams “Astronaut!” The actor appears to be relishing every second he spends onscreen. His Matt Kowalski is on his last mission, trying to break spacewalk records and prove his iron resolve. He even displays a good nature when space debris has just whizzed by his head and pulverized his spacecraft.

Gravity is a true cinematic achievement, so much so that I can’t really compare it to any other film. Gravity is its own beautiful beast, a unique experience that will leave you very happy you didn’t wait to watch it in your living room. See Gravity on the biggest, boldest screen available—and prepare to have your mind blown.

Gravity is playing in theaters across the valley.