127 Hours

James Franco has been on my radar of late and with my mission to see all 10 Oscar nominees for 2010 I got to witness one of his latest projects, 127 Hours. It was the only one I didn’t get to see before the big show, but I now know why the film made it to the big leagues. Several of the best pictures were based on true stories, which is one of the reasons I appreciated 127 Hours.

Director Danny Boyle took the story of hiker Aron Ralston falling into a canyon and being pinned by a boulder and presented an engaging visual depiction of a seemingly simple tale. I didn’t think about it before watching, but what could possibly be visually interesting about a guy trapped for five days? Ralston wrote a book about what happened, which I haven’t read, but I can understand how on the page his story could be compelling. Boyle and the film’s writers, luckily, consulted with Ralston and watched tapes he made while trapped and turned out a work that is probably equally has compelling as the book. I guess it depends on your preference of medium which version of the story you’d like. There is the film, book, and of course the media frenzy about Ralston after his accident. But, the film as far as I can tell didn’t stray from what actually happened and paid respect to the plight of someone who lived through such a harrowing experience. Audiences shouldn’t be disappointed in choosing that version.
Boyle melds a one-on-one struggle a man must face trying to survive with reflection of his time on Earth since he realizes he might die. Other than meeting two hikers early on his hiking trip, Franco as Ralston is all by himself and has to act alone for a majority of the picture. I knew going into it that ultimately Ralston cut off the arm pinned by the boulder in order to climb out the canyon and have even a chance of survival. The journey starts with Ralston trying to get out from under the boulder, thinking of times with his family and friends, and ends with a grisly scene that shows the viewer as much as possible what it looks like and feels like to cut off your arm. It was incredibly graphic and not for the squeamish, but the scene couldn’t and shouldn’t have been done any other way.
Franco gets props too because, other than the visual scenery and music Boyle crafted, 127 Hours was a one man show. He was what viewers saw most of the time and had to be entertaining while focusing on pretending to live through someone else’s life-threatening experience.
Back to 127 Hours’ roots in Ralston’s story, a film about such an accident and struggle would not have been at all believable if someone just came up with the idea as fiction one day and put it on screen. Even with the same cast and cinematography, the film as fiction would have lost me right away. But, Ralston decided to tell his story and leave it to creative minds to take it to the next level.
From all sides, 127 Hours holds its own with having a tale that’s as heartbreaking as it is heartwarming to work from. What’s not to give away is who Ralston is as a person shown by Franco during his five days in the canyon. We all know he cuts off his arm to be free, but not why he wanted to be free and the life he’d lived before the accident. It’s one of those “I was lost and now I’m found” type of scenarios and the film really just took me away on the journey with Ralston.
Boyle redeemed himself from Slumdog Millionaire for me, and here’s a guarantee I’ll be catching up on what I haven’t seen from Franco and his next projects. It’s been a tough decision, but I’ve decided to let my Netflix queue run free and not add to or reorder it until I get through more of the titles. (I of course have a separate running list for when that happens). At least I know there is some Franco work in there somewhere, and I hope it comes up sooner rather than later.

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