By Bill Wine
KYW Newsradio 1060
It should be static, but it’s not. It should be unwatchable, but it’s not. And it should be depressing, but it’s not.
Still, 127 Hours, a nightmarish account of a horrific ordeal, is not for everybody, even though it’s well made, well acted, and well worth two hours.
Regardless, recommending a movie that traps you with (nearly) its only character — a mountain climber who is trapped under a canyon boulder and must eventually do something unthinkable that will not be described here even though you probably already know what it is — is not an easy thing to do.
127 Hours pays off so differently than the typical movie experience, and asks so much more of the viewer in terms of patience and fortitude and openmindedness and commitment, even a proponent feels the need to issue a warning.
And a reminder — that not all experiences and writings lend themselves to the movie screen, even those that can be translated in commendable fashion, as this one is.
James Franco plays real-life hiker Aron Ralston, who fell into Blue John Canyon in Utah, where he was pinned under an immovable fallen boulder for an unthinkable five days, a harrowing ordeal he described in his 2004 memoir, Between a Rock and a Hard Place.
Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, 28 Days Later, Shallow Grave, Trainspotting), who co-wrote the adapted screenplay with Simon Beaufoy, takes on the challenge of filming the unfilmable, and overcomes the problem inherent in this action flick with no action by taking an impressionistic approach, including Ralston’s flashbacks, fantasies, hallucinations, and memories as a hedge against the claustrophobia of the canyon.
And in the film’s most dramatic, excruciating, and inevitable scene, one that involves an act that you fear even as you submit and root for it, you confront the momentous what-would-I-have-done moment.
Expect to find it necessary to look away but impossible to stay away.
As the desperate and courageous but undeniably reckless canyoneer, Franco, who obviously carries virtually the entire film with no one else to play off of (even Tom Hanks had more company in Cast Away), is nothing short of spectacular. His tour de force performance not only fulfills but exceeds the expectations he just hinted at in such films as Spider-Man, Pineapple Express, Milk, and Eat Pray Love.
Put him on the short list for a best actor Oscar nomination.
There’s not much motion in this motion picture, but plenty of emotion. So bring your sense of indoor dread, as well as your belief that you’ll survive this tale of outdoor survival.
Meanwhile, we’ll trap 2½ stars out of 4 for the intensely visceral real-life-and-limb drama, 127 Hours. Certainly not a movie experience you’re likely to enjoy, but one that provides a vivid view of a mountain of accomplishments by Aron Ralston, Danny Boyle, and James Franco that you’re sure to admire.