The story begins with Aron Ralston (James Franco) preparing for a weekend of biking and hiking and climbing in Canyonlands National Park in Utah. Going just about anywhere in Utah means that you're not going to see a lot of people, but this is a large park that is four hours away from Salt Lake City; if you want to get lost in Utah, there's probably not a better spot. That's okay, though, because Aron is a hard core adventurer. If the guide book says it should take two hours to get somewhere by the established trails, Aron's going to try and cut that time in half by trailblazing his own path. The only thing that slows Aron down is a pair of lost, but attractive, lady hikers; he takes them where they need to go (and then convinces them to do some crazy stuff), but is soon back on track in his quest to reach Blue John Canyon. Now, when you think of hiking, you probably imagine a person walking, except it's uphill. Aron's version of hiking involves running and jumping off of rocks and canyon walls. Surprisingly (to me, anyway), Aron does take some logical precautions as he hikes (he tests how much weight rocks and branches can bear, etc.), but it turns out that his forethought is not enough. While descending a narrow chasm in the canyon, where the walls of solid rock are so close together that boulders are suspended in the air, Aron accidentally dislodges a large rock and tumbles down the chasm. He lands safely enough, but the rock fell with him and landed on his arm. The rock is too heavy to lift, and it's wedged in pretty tight. With limited provisions and no rescue on the way --- he's hard core, so he didn't tell anyone where he was hiking --- Aron is left with one desperate choice. Of course, it takes him about 127 hours to finally get around to it.
|The working title for the film was "Well, shit...now what?"|
Of course, James Franco deserves credit for his performance, too. I'm not usually a Franco-phile, but he turns in a surprisingly good performance in an extremely difficult role. This movie is all about his character, and he's in almost every second of the movie, and is the focal point of every scene. I assumed that this would be one of those stereotypical Oscar-baiting roles, where an actor pretends to be handicapped, cries a lot, is Sean Penn, or all of the above. Instead, Franco treats us to a character that, while kind of goofy, is extremely likable. There is a supporting cast in the film, too, but they aren't around for much. Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara are fine as the cute girls that Aron Ralston thrills early in the film. Clemence Poesy (who you might remember from the Harry Potter series) is okay as Aron's lover that we see in flashbacks. I'm not entirely sure how much acting was required of Treat Williams, Kate Burton, or Lizzy Caplan as they played largely dialogue-free parts in Aron's flashbacks and hallucinations.
What makes this a special movie is its tone. It kind of reminds me of seeing the Flaming Lips live in concert; their music is kind of melancholy and sad, but is transformed in concert into a fantastic, life-affirming experience.
|Confetti = Good times? Yes, if you're not cleaning up.|
My criticisms for the film are pretty small, but they mean a lot to me. As much as I enjoyed Danny Boyle's direction, I wish he had put more purpose or meaning behind his variety of camera angles. It's a small gripe, I know, but it can make the difference between good and masterful direction. Boyle is at the point in his career where every movie he makes is potentially a classic (in my mind, anyway), so to see him not put the extra effort into having different camera angles imply different emotions is disappointing for me. My other "complaint" regards the climax of the film; yes, it's emotional, but I think they could have cranked it up a few more notches and still not have come anywhere near melodrama. Like I said, they're small gripes, but I think they're valid points.
That doesn't change the fact that this is a very good movie with a surprisingly good performance by James Franco. You don't often spend an entire movie watching one character barely move, but this is definitely worth a watch.