Saturday, January 8, 2011

127 Hours

James Franco has made many interesting choices throughout his career, but with 127 Hours his peculiar form of alchemy created gold. This is easily his best performance in a movie that is nearly entirely him alone on one set. 127 Hours is the definition of a one man show and Franco shined.

The story of Aron Ralston is one of those news items that I completely remember happening but had no idea about any of the details. So I went into the theater knowing that he gets trapped and cuts his own arm off. That in and of itself was enough to get me in the door. 127 Hours took this very sparse incident and crafted an entire movie without resorting to the usual tricks to stretch out the story. There was no long preamble or extensive flashback. The movie begins with him heading out to the desert and within 20 minutes he is pinned against a rock inside a crevice. And those first 20 minutes was enough time to show the type of man Aron was and how he was such a unique person to be put in this situation. He was completely self reliant and fully capable of handling himself in the middle of nowhere, but at the same time he was completely self reliant and never even gave a thought about letting anyone know where he was going. This was the reason why no one was ever going to come and rescue him but he would be able to keep himself alive longer than just about anyone south of Bear Grylls.

127 Hours was a showcase for 2 people, Danny Boyle and James Franco. Danny Boyle never seems to do the same thing twice. He gets famous from Trainspotting, reestablishes his name with 28 Days Later.., won his first Oscar with Slumdog Millionaire, and now follows that up with 127 Hours. He works absolute magic with this single set movie. It may just be a man pinned between a boulder and a wall but there is never a moment of boredom. And he somehow turns the truly gruesome scene of Aron cutting his own arm off (and let me not jump past that because his choice of sound and editing as Aron cuts through skin, veins, cartilage, muscle, and bone was just perfect) into maybe the most uplifting moment I’ve seen all year. That entire climatic sequence was incredibly powerful.

Everything Boyle did worked because James Franco was the man in front of the lens. His natural charisma was put to the test in 127 Hours and he exceeded all expectations. The happy go lucky Aron bouncing around in the beginning of the movie was Franco on cruise control. But once it become him and the rock, he goes to another level. The scene where he interviews himself in front of his handheld camera is amazing. He is hilarious and heartbreaking at the same time. Just the look he gives the camera after saying “oops” is the reason why he is being nominated this year. That is not even taking into account the actual scene where he saws through his arm with a dull pocket knife and drags his ass to safety. This was a completely next level performance.

I love when the bell is rung and all these top shelf movies start hitting the theaters. 127 Hours was a nice kick off to the award movie season. Not only that but it further solidifies Danny Boyle and damn near reinvents what James Franco is capable of.

9 out of 10

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