The musings of a feminist pop culture fanatic

#1 127 Hours (11/19)

EW Description: “James Franco gives a career performance in Danny Boyle’s R-rated real-life story of Aron Ralston, a hiker who was trapped by a boulder for five days before he was forced to cut off his own arm. It’s both hard to watch and impossible not to.”

Fair warning: If you are sensitive to blood, be ready to keep your eyes shut for about 10 minutes. Even if you don’t think you’re that sensitive to blood, if you aren’t prepared to watch a guy rip a nerve out of his arm, just keep your eyes shut. It’s bloody and gory, but the thing is, I wasn’t offended by it the way I normally am by gratuitous blood.

I think the reason I was okay with it was because it actually helped to further the story. He wasn’t trapped by the rock just so Danny Boyle could show a guy ripping his arm off. There was a plot there, which is what makes 127 Hours different from all the other bloody movies typically shown in theaters. This was probably as bloody as Hostel or Saw, but this wasn’t gratuitous. It also helped that this wasn’t a story about violence, like so many bloody movies are. This was a survival story. He wasn’t running from the bad guy and there wasn’t a ton of problematic violence. Nature wasn’t even necessarily the enemy. He was just a really unlucky guy who got trapped.

Franco is absolutely amazing as Aron Ralston. He does a great job of constraining his typical craziness and portrays a quieter desperation. It isn’t until the last day Ralston is trapped that Franco really lets his craziness shine. With the exception of Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara as two hikers Ralston comes across in the desert before he gets trapped, this is 90 minutes of James Franco. He does have flashbacks and hallucinations to other people in his life (Lizzy Caplan as his sister, Treat Williams as his father, Kate Burton as his mother, Harry Potter’s Clemence Poesy as his former girlfriend), but they do not have huge roles.

Danny Boyle does a great job of showing the effects of 127 hours of isolation and what it does to a person’s mind. The audience feels Aron’s desperation and his gradual descent into temporary insanity. By the last day, the movie gets super trippy, but it’s not a hokey, over-the-top sort of way. Boyle is such a gifted filmmaker with a really specific point of view. A lot of the best parts about the way he did Slumdog Millionaire are also in 127 Hours. The two are very different movies, but you can clearly tell they’re made by the same person. The fact that Boyle teamed up with A.R. Rahman for the score again made it even better. The music is absolutely fantastic.

Don’t let the bloodiness dissuade you from seeing this movie. Outside of the really gory 5-10 minutes at the end, the rest is absolutely fantastic. You’ll be hearing a lot more about this movie as we get farther into awards season.

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