Sunday, December 12, 2010

Franco, My Dear, I Just Loved 127 Hours

     For some odd reason, I always thought James Franco was one of those pussy 90210 actors that only got movie roles in terrible films because of his charming good looks. He was always a little prick in those Spiderman films, and he never really impressed me (or anyone) with his roles in films like Annapolis or Flyboys. My opinion of him changed in 2008: his portrayal of lonely pot dealer Saul Silver in Pineapple Express was both hilarious and extremely touching. He followed that up with a small but important role in the good film Milk in the same year. Then I learned even more about him, discovering that he is also a writer and painter, and he even guest stars on General Hospital occasionally as a mysterious artist named Franco. Ok, this dude actually seems pretty cool, I thought to myself. After watching 127 Hours, the true story of a carefree climber getting his arm stuck under a boulder, my erection for Franco has reached its gigantic (tiny) peak. His performance will easily be included as one of the best of 2010 and is at times funny, heart-wrenching and puke-inducing.
     127 Hours is based upon the book by Aron Ralston, "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," and it chronicles a trip to the Blue John Canyon in the Utah Desert where things go terribly wrong. To get away from the sprawl, Aron bikes and climbs in the Utah canyons, taking in the never ending vistas and beautiful rock formations. Always ready for an adventure, he jumps through cracks and crevices into blue, shining pools of water dozens of feet below. He rides his bike fast and hard, jumping rocks and taking diggers onto the desert sand. At one point, he uses a boulder about the size of a dump truck tire to inch himself down a thin crevice. The boulder doesn't hold. This isn't really a spoiler if you've seen the trailers to the movie, as at least three quarters of the run time is Aron stuck under a rock. Sounds a little boring, no? No. Like Tom Hanks in Castaway, the loneliness of the situation is fascinating and never dull (unlike his jackknife when he needs to do the inevitable). He has little water, little food, and only a few other gadgets--a camera, video camera, some rope, a flashlight and a dull jackknife. Some of the film is told in hallucinations and short flashbacks, which makes you relate to Aron and the terrible conundrum that he has gotten himself into.
     The film is not great just because of Franco and the interesting story; it's also great due to the full-of-life frenetic direction by the always-reliable Danny Boyle. Whether he is filming wasted youth in Trainspotting, flesh-eating zombies in 28 Days Later, the Indian version of Who wants to be a Millionaire? in Slumdog Millionaire, or a man running out of water in 127 Hours, his direction if always full of one thing: energy. A couple of examples from 127 Hours: Aron, slowly dying of thirst, hallucinates of Coke commercials and perspiring glass bottles of liquid at a rapid pace. Aron's piss slowly bubbling up the straw of his water pack into his mouth. The realization that Aron's situation is solely his own fault, filmed with flashbacks of him not telling anyone where he was going or not returning his mom's phone call the day before. All of these clips have to be seen to be appreciated. Danny Boyle is becoming a director to rely on for at times hilarious, at times horrifying, but always entertaining film making.
     127 Hours is one of the best films of the year. I could have watched it for 127 hours. Every aspect of it comes together for the full package of movie enjoyability. There were reports of people passing out and/or vomiting during the scene that most people know is coming. Don't let that deter you from this wonderful film. It's story that celebrates the will to live, and if you're not at least a little moved, then you're not human.     (A)

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