Yes. 127 Hours is the movie where James Franco cuts off his arm. Let’s talk about that in these first two paragraphs and get it out of the way. It was horrible. I thought I was going to pass out. I couldn’t watch most of it, but even the audio was enough to make me lightheaded and break out in chills. I cannot remember physically reacting to a graphic scene in any way close to that before, though granted, I don’t see the Eli Roth-esque torture porn movies that the rest of America seems to be nuts for. So it goes.
The only explanation I have for my reaction is that I knew that this was what Aron Ralston had actually gone through. Not only that, but rather than the two minutes the amputation takes on screen (and it certainly felt longer, even just listening), it took him an hour. The film has so firmly put you in his position, feeling the despair & isolation that drove him to this ultimate act of survival, that you can’t help but go through it with him in this very small way of cinema.
Anyway. That two minutes is not the point of the film. On Twitter I made the comparison to Up in the Air, which on the surface appears to be a ridiculous link, but stay with me here. Both films are about guys who use their apartments as little more than launch pads before taking off on their next adventure. They have perfectly nice, average families, at least insofar as we can see, but they resist connections to them. In fact, though they’re well-liked on a surface level, they both avoid closer relationships with people, and certainly deny any semblance of need.
The point of it all is that when you’ve built up a world where you are wholly self-reliant, where you either have no one to check in with or where you opt out of doing so, the biggest step you can take is asking for help. It’s why, instead of wanting to cheer at the end, like the crowd we were told of in New Jersey, I wanted to go off somewhere and have a good cry.
As far as the Real Review sorts of things go, the direction is constantly interesting, with active cuts and occasional triptych framing. I had wondered *how* the core time trapped in the canyon would be handled, but having recently seen Buried I was perhaps less concerned if it *could* be done. In contrast to Buried, which keeps us in the box for the entire film, 127 Hours grants us the same brief reprieves Ralston had: memories, dreams, and fantasies of escape. Within the canyon, there is room for a greater variety of angles than one might expect, and Ralston’s video messages shot by Franco also change things up in a great way.
Franco, by the way, is fantastic. Danny Boyle did a Q&A at our screening, and said that Pineapple Express is what sold him on the casting, which delights me to no end. It’s because in addition to the obvious drama, the role needed someone comic, who could be a charming person alone on camera for the majority of the film, providing brief moments of relief for the audience.
On a final and random note, I was pleasantly surprised by the lack of references to faith in the script. Ralston talks to himself, to his mother via the camera, and to the boulder, but not to any sort of a god. I don’t know what the real Ralston believes, but as an atheist I feel a stronger connection to a guy who says “please” and not “please, god.”