For the first time in way-too-long time, the Grouches got together and saw a movie together: 127 Hours. The film about the harrowing story of Aron Ralston, the canyoneer who had to amputate half of his right arm in order to free himself from a lodged rock, drew varying reactions between “apathetic” and “entertained” from the four of us, so  you likely won’t see much disagreement. But here’s my take:

The material itself would not give any director that much to work with. There are pretty much two plot points: guy gets stuck under rock — guy frees himself from rock. Everything else is filler, and it felt that director Danny Boyle knew this as he used a variety of gimmicks and camera tricks to break things up. Neither really worked. Boyle inserted himself into the film in a distracting fashion, and if we were to have other “characters” interact with Ralston, then I’d have liked to have seen more scenes of young Aron with his dad (Treat Williams) or sister. The script didn’t offer enough background development of Ralston, especially if we were going to spend over an hour with just him.

James Franco was quite good in a rather meaty role. He plays the serious goofball rather well, and its to his credit that I cared as much as I did. The amputation scenes had been built up for me, so  even though I covered my eyes for part of it, they didn’t have quite the emotional impact as I’d have hoped.

Rahman’s score was meh and his song was even worse (though I’ll let John tackle that one) — but it appears that Oscar nominations are in the offing for both of them. Grouches, take it from here.

Jared: Ever since 12 Angry Men, I’ve had a thing for films taking place in confined settings.  Perhaps it is because when the number of thing that can happen is very limited, the screenwriter is forced to focus on ways to make an engaging story.  In any case, 127 Hours is not boring, especially considering the premise, as Brian points out, is basically a guy is stuck under a rock in a canyon.  I don’t think it ever approaches anywhere close to the heights of must-see, either.  But given some of the dreck the Academy loves, I’m not going to complain too much about a fairly decent film getting some love. 

I find myself comparing the movie to Frozen, which was released this year and tells the story of three college students trapped on a ski lift and last year’s The Canyon, which stars the incomparable Yvonne Strahovski as half of a pair of newlyweds who get lost in a canyon and whose husband (MINOR SPOILER ALERT) gets trapped under a rock.  And in doing so, I’ve come to the realization that I don’t really understand what makes 127 Hours special.  James Franco?  Sure.  He definitely displays a greater range than anyone in the other two movies I mention, and I don’t think I’ll have any problem with his Oscar nomination.  I’m pretty much ambivalent on what Brian describes as Boyle’s stylistic flourishes, maybe they helped move the story long.  But a more minimalist approach certainly would have been feasible without really losing anything.

As a side note, especially in case Adam doesn’t get to respond, for a movie about a dude trapped in a canyon, the film sure managed to find room for a lot of attractive actresses.  Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Lizzy Caplan, and In Bruges‘s Clemence Poesy?  Yowza.  Maybe it was Boyle resorting to another trick to keep the audience engaged, but that’s the kind of trick I can support.

John: Yeesh, what a bunch of, well, grouches. 127 Hours is audacious, visionary filmmaking. This is a Danny Boyle experience and he makes sure it’s always interesting. A film like this, with its limited scope, depends nearly entirely on the director’s vision. How do you portray this ordeal? How do you make the audience understand what the character experienced?

Boyle does so via flashbacks, dreams, and hallucinations. He gives it his usual pizzazz with flashy camerawork, quick edits, and an electronic score. Transport Franco’s great performance into a film that gives the story a straightforward treatment – voice over, rousing music cues, some emotional manipulation to leave the audience teary-eyed – and you’d have one boring movie.

I can’t say every element connected with me. I didn’t realize some of the imagery was meant to be Ralston’s actual hallucinations, for instance. I think it could have eased off the gas in a few spots. But I feel like if you like film as an art form, and not just as a story telling medium, it would be hard not to be thrilled with Boyle’s ambitious work here.

I didn’t really feel like I was transported to a Utah cave, lost in the story. I felt like I was watching a gifted artist’s interpretation of an incredible event.

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