127 Hours (2010), directed by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 days later), is based on the true story of Aron Ralston, who, after getting his arm stuck while canyoneering alone in Utah, had to cut it off, after 5 days of attempts to get out, in order to survive. It stars James Franco as the main character, surrounded by secondary roles we barely see, including our very own Clémence Poésy, but also Treat Willialms and Kate Mara.
You would think that watching what is pretty much a one man show in pretty much one single location for about 90 minutes would be boring – it is not, thanks to the great filming, the flashbacks, and the acting of James Franco. Well, not completely. You know what to expect, no big surprise, no happy ending. And yet….
Franco is genuine and extremely believable an an arrogant adventurer who does not need anyone and just goes on canyoneering without telling anyone where he is. He shows a whole range of emotions as he reflects back on his life, his actions, his attitude : to friends, to girlfriends, to family.
Aron: Hey there, Aron! Is it true that you didn't tell anyone where you were going?
Aron : You know, I've been thinking. Everything is... just comes together. It's me. I chose this. I chose all this. This rock... this rock has been waiting for me my entire life. It's entire life, ever since it was a bit of meteorite a million, billion years ago. In space. It's been waiting, to come here. Right, right here. I've been moving towards it my entire life. The minute I was born, every breath that I've taken, every action has been leading me to this crack on the out surface.
Aron : Did I say the weather is great? Well, it is. Though flash floods potential is still present. There's four-prong major canyons upstream from me that all converge in this 3 foot wide gap where I am. The rock I pulled down on top of me, it was put there by flood. Still, I'd get a drink.
The character reminded me of that of Chris McCandless in Into the Wild. And they come to the same conclusion : it is better to share. For one, it is just about letting people know where he is, for the other it is about how beauty can only be enjoyed if it is shared with someone.
The filming is great, and flashbacks are well inserted into the film to break the scenes in the canyon into short sequences. Sometimes i twas difficult to differentiate dream and reality, such as the flood scene, which I really thought was happening for real. That was a perfect way, to me, to show the character’s hallucinations. There was no slmowing down, and the scene where he cuts off his arm is extremely realistic.
The real Aron filmed a video diary while he was in the canyon ; only his friends and family saw it, and it is kept in a bank vault. Both Danny Boyle and James Franco were wllowed to watch it to be able to give an accurate portrait.
Another thing, as it turns out, James Franco was not Danny Boyle's first choice to play Aron ; Cillian Murphy was (come on.... main character in The Wind that Shakes the Barley). I probably would not have cared about that information, but now I know who he is, so it’s different and I find the information relevant. Although I think Franco was the right choice : he is Aron. He makes the movie.
To be perfectly honest, the story is not exactly what I tend to favour, in the end it is more like a documentary than like a drama – that said, for breathtaking views of canyons and to appreciate the incredible talent of both Boyle and Franco, it is worth it. After all, 90 minutes is not so long !