Cinema: Maybe I’ve Been Doing it Wrong?

We went to see Mission Impossible: Fallout last night and it was an experience. The movie itself was superb, with old-school action and ticking clocks and stunts and double-crosses, but what put it over-the-top for me was seeing a movie like that with an audience...like that. 

Now, I say that as someone who actively dislikes people in general. Not all people, but all groups of people? Sure.

I usually like to avoid crowds with every fibre of my being - but I desperately wanted to see the movie and every cinema in LA was booking up fast - so I sucked it up and joined my fellow humans to sit in darkness and see something special.

And how happy I am now that I did.  

The experience was nothing like I imagined. As the story soared along, I sat in the dark smiling like a loon - half because the movie is just that good, and the other half was because the audience that I dreaded was just so cool.  

But what was different with this audience? I go to a lot of movies back home in Ireland (I wait until hopefully everyone on the planet has seen the movie, then go) - so what was making an Irish crowd-a-phobe in a strange land like I was...dare I say...happy?  

Well, about half way through the movie I looked around at the audience, enthralled, and realised that the cinema is their theatre; that movies are their plays. And it filled me with an unfamiliar sense of joy.

The people laughed and clapped and cheered the stars on screen like Cruise and Co could hear them. They shared the pain, joined in the laughter. And it was amazing. 

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 Back home in Ireland, we save that kind of response for live performances. We let the stage-ham know we’re with them through laughter, or we bathe the powerhouse performer with applause after an emotional scene. But last night, this full-house of people wanted to shower the finale with genuine bursts of relief-applause when the hero (let’s not spoil anything) did heroic things! And it was infectious.  

I grew up kinda sorting my entertainment into what was interactive and what wasn’t. We were part of live performances, but we simply consumed ‘taped’ performances. And last night I realized just how wrong we’ve/I’ve been.  

And what a perfect movie to find that out. 

The nature of most action movies is to have some kind of ticking clock counting down to doom (sometimes literally, sometimes not) and as each scene flew by, and as our heroes came closer to doom, the audience grew more and more supportive and engaged. They rooted, cheered and willed good to overcome evil. Then somewhere along the way, WE rooted, cheered and willed good to overcome evil. My wife and I joined in - her palms sweating and my heart thumping, them and us became we. We cheered on our hereos in the dark. I didn’t mean to join in, but I did. I didn’t mean to get so caught up, but I did.

And I didn’t mean to have such a great time, but I did. 

 

Paul O'Brien