By now, I’m sure most of you have heard something about this movie. But, you more than likely don’t know it as 127 Hours, or that movie starring James Franco, or even the new film from Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire). I’m betting the more common descriptor is, “that movie where that dude cuts his own arm off.” I’m guessing many of you will have decided whether or not this movie is for you based solely on this information.
At a crisp 95-minute run-time, the film wastes nary a second moving the plot into place… stuck in place I should say. Aron Ralston (James Franco) is an outdoor type and a lone wolf by nature. One weekend he goes biking and hiking in the middle of nowhere, without notifying anyone, which is nothing out of the ordinary for him.
A freak accident lands Aron at the bottom of a crevice with his right hand pinned between an errant boulder and the rock wall. About 10-15 minutes in and now the title pops up, as if to remind us the clock starts now.
That’s not a lot of plot, but Boyle fills it out with wonderful little details, flashy camera work/editing (Boyle staples), and hallucinatory flashbacks. Boyle sticks us right down into that crevice with Franco. And to his credit, Franco, without a lot of flare, endears us to him. After 5 days of cold nights and failed escape attempts, Franco has you rooting for him to maim himself, just so you can see this guy live. It’s a great performance and Franco makes it look effortless.
My gripe is with the film’s parting message. I like the survival stuff, and the fact that this all really happened is endlessly fascinating. I just don’t think we really needed the extra motivation for self-amputation supplied by one of Aron’s “visions.” I’d be lying if I said the emotion and the viscera didn’t get to me on some level. But, the idea of community and family equaling salvation was already made clear well before it was so obviously shoved in our faces. If that wasn’t enough, the dialogue, what little there is, goes right ahead and spells it out, in case you weren’t paying attention: Loner…bad…family…good.
But like I said, this does work to some extent. There was a giant tug at my heartstrings, accompanied by the full blast of Sigur Ros. I wish the filmmakers allowed for a little more subtly, but I’m willing to forgive thanks to Franco holding my attention while mostly standing still.
And that grisly scene is not that grisly at all. There is blood and it isn’t pretty, but the more faint-worthy moments come earlier. There’s a graphic shot, reminiscent of Three Kings, where we see the tip of a dull knife touching bone… ehhw… *shivers* …and there’s some gut-wrenching sound design when Franco breaks his own arm before operating… feeling… light… headed. I know this last bit probably isn’t helping convince you, but there’s more than enough here to consider upgrading this from “that arm chopping movie” to “127 Hours… that movie where James Franco is really good… and chops off his own arm.”