127 Hours Directed by: Danny Boyle Cast: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins Rating: R Release Date: November 19, 2010
PLOT: Aron Ralston (Franco) is an outdoor adrenaline junkie. He takes off for the weekend without telling anyone where he's heading and runs into serious trouble when he gets stuck in a canyon.
WHO'S IT FOR? First of all, it's just a great film. Second, if you have an inclination to explore the world around you, but only have 1.5 hours, then see this movie and schedule a camping trip when you have more time.
EXPECTATIONS: Franco + Boyle and trouble in the great outdoors, and it's based on a true story. I was looking forward to it, but was a little worried about liberties being taken with the story.
James Franco as Aron Ralston: Franco absolutely nails the "based on a true story" part. He's able to remind you of someone in your life, maybe even yourself. Through quick flashbacks and hallucinations we are able to understand what makes Aron tick. Even though he loved to escape, think about how he did it. He had and used his camera and video camera to capture, to talk to, to share. He's showing off his life, he's just doing it alone. When Kristi and Megan show up, he jumps at the chance to be a guide. Just like Into the Wild, there is power in seclusion, but it typically leads to remembering the joy of connecting with others. Yes, Franco's performance made me think of all of this. Franco was the next big thing when he played James Dean in the bio-pic for TNT. I've watched him since "Freaks and Geeks." After a few years of blockbusters (Spider-Man) and forgotten films, he's churning out the best work in Hollywood. He even managed to direct a behind-the-scenes of "Saturday Night Live" called "Saturday Night." With Matt Damon and Ed Norton being in mediocre films lately, Franco just might end up being my favorite. This shocks me, but damn he's good in this film. You don't mind being stuck in a canyon with him at all. Score: 10
Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn as Kristi and Megan: Insert cute, young girls here. Perfect. Aron meets Kristi and Megan. I didn't know every detail of Aron's journey and this side adventure was a nice surprise. We get to see Aron's charm and even what's holding him back. Plus, when all three of them plunge into a pond far below, it's the second best adrenaline rush of the film. Score: 8
TALKING: Sure, there are moments of silence. I mean, Aron is alone when he's stuck in that canyon. Did you notice I haven't told you HOW he is stuck? If you don't know the story, I'm one of the rare film critics who will actually let you experience that for yourself. The charm I talked about above when Aron meets Kristi and Megan is shown through humorous lines like, "Sorry, I can't take the face off," after he disrobed his killer gear. There's also the time when Aron creates a talk show (see my best scene below). Score: 8
SIGHTS: It's not hard to make the great outdoors look beautiful but Boyle steps it up a notch. He seems to use a lot of the same techniques and color schemes that he used in Slumdog Millionaire. It works to great effect in 127 Hours as well. It's such a rich blend of vivid colors that you can't help but be jealous of Aron getting to experience this adventure, until he gets caught of course. Also, once Aron is in the canyon, there are some fantastic close shots that really add to the feeling of being stuck. Score: 10
SOUNDS: Music plays a huge roll in this film. We get the "pump up" song right away to let us know we're heading for an adventure. Boyle also uses one of my favorite devices, headphones. Aron is listening to music and then we join in. One more thing, the noises that come from the canyon when Aron is trying to free himself, yeah those do their job as well. Score: 9
BEST SCENE: I loved the talk show that Aron puts on after days of being stuck. It was a much needed jolt of comedy. If it's the biggest affect, then we'll have to go with some that hit a nerve. Enough said.
ENDING: There are only a few times when emotions of joy overtake me in a film and things get a little misty in a good way.
QUESTIONS: Do audiences need to see the real people? This has become a standard device at the end of "based on a true story" films. Franco did such a good job embodying Aron, I didn't need an appearance by real-life Aron Ralston. Isn't that what the internet is for?
REWATCHABILITY: Yup, looking forward to it. This movie currently sits in my Top 5 of 2010. It's still early, but it's that good.
When Aron gets trapped, he's shocked by the situation. But it's different than if it would have happened to you or me. He's not stressed, just surprised. Aron has plenty of "untouchable youth" in him, whether that is with adventure of how he treats love. But when it comes to the outdoors, he also has the necessary intelligence to do the "crazy" things he does. He also doesn't blame the world, he knows how he got into this mess.
Once Aron is stuck, we the audience aren't. We get moments with a young Aron and his dad (Treat Williams) watching the sunrise at the Grand Canyon. We get glimpses of a failed relationship with Rana (Clémence Poésy). And just when it seems to be getting a little bit boring, we get a talk show hosted by Aron, showcasing the comedic abilities of Franco.
Through it all, it's somehow relatable. You know that feeling you get when you misplace your keys, but then find them? It's like you've accomplished something even though you're right where you started. Well, Aron dropped a knife and is overjoyed when he figures out a way to get it back. Director Danny Boyle has figured out how to put you in the canyon.
Franco shines in 127 Hours and he must to make the film work at all. And to think, he's just the guy playing the guy.
FINAL SCORE: 9/10