127 Hours, James Franco

Directed by Danny Boyle. Starring James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn.

Award-winning director takes the surprisingly simple but triumphant (and true) story of an adventurer pinned down by a rock and turns it into a riveting piece of filmmaking that just about captures the human will to survive.

Aron Ralston, played by the extremely talented James Franco, is a loner and a thrill-seeker. He’s basically replacing the emptiness in his life with an adrenalin rush. Which is why, he just ups and goes rock climbing in some secluded canyons. By himself. Without telling anyone where he’s going. And then he falls and his arm gets caught between a boulder and the rock face. Talk about being between a rock and a hard place! Also makes you think about all those times mommy asked you where you were going and when you’d be back and your snide retort — “Mom, I’m an adult, don’t ask me stupid questions!” Okay, so that was me.

Look, the premise is really miniscule. Boyle and Franco deliver 93 minutes of reasonably spellbinding drama. Sure you have your odd critic during the interval complaining that we know the end (he cuts his arm off to get loose) and so it should just hurry along now. But that’s the point, Boyle has used filmmaking technique and stunning cinematography to engage the viewer and bring added depth and detail to what is basically a guy trapped in a ravine. Sure some of the camera work is a bit of a gimmick but it works well: like showing us a view from the bottom of Ralston’s water bottle as he’s drinking it ever so carefully not to finish it all off and showing you how much he still has left.

Through the film, there are frequent flashbacks and visions that Ralston has, and that we’re taken to, to get a better understanding of what was going through his mind and what happens to a person when they know they’re going to die soon. And of course, in true American style, he even records a video diary of his predicament and his attempts to free himself, for mom and dad, and presumably the world, considering how reality TV is everything nowadays.

Franco apparently said that Boyle just asked him to stay there with the rock and bang himself up against it again and again to try and get out. So the frustration and fatigue you see on his face are all real. Franco has that earnest realness about him that has made him such a popular and fine actor.

AR Rahman’s background score is charged, amping up the claustrophobic situation perfectly but at times you sort of feel the score and the songs that appear during flashbacks aren’t or shouldn’t be part of the same film. There’s no seamlessness, which may explain the no-win for Rahman at the Golden Globe Awards 2011.

And just a word or so about the actual hacking off of the limb: people did squirm in their seats (me too) so if you’re squeamish and blood freaks you out then be prepared to avert your eyes.

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