Yesterday, I saw 127 Hours at Century.
I knew James Franco's character was going to cut his arm off, but I wasn't seriously worried until I was walking up the ramp to theater #7 where I noticed a small white sign taped to the wall. It reminded viewers of the one graphic scene that had caused viewers to feel sick and almost faint. And then I realized what I had actually signed up to see, how every single shot in the film would hint at his entrapment and his eventual escape. I was sweaty and scared during shots at the beginning in which James Franco simply ran his hands across smooth rocks. That is effective filmmaking.
But from now on, I don't think I'll mention the arm thing, which was harrowing, but I think Danny Boyle didn't want to make it the focus of the entire film.
Here's why. There's a framing device used, shots of people on a crowded train platform, fans in a packed stadium, cars on a highway, all emphasizing the multitude of people everywhere else, except for where Aron Ralston was trapped. We get the sense that he wanted to be alone, and while I haven't read the book he wrote, I'm going to assume that this is something he had written about extensively. This is about as much as we get in terms of character development...and really about as much as we can expect, and as a result, a lot of the flashbacks revolve around his experiences with an ex-girlfriend, which allow us to escape the ridiculously claustrophobic conditions in the canyon, and also shows us what would prompt a person to go somewhere so lonely without letting anyone know where he was going.
This makes the people helping Aron in the end seem like they're functioning symoblically as well. He needs people to survive. He has learned his lesson. It's no longer just a factual account, and I respect the desire to incorporate a small arc, or a small emotional change into such a big, terrifying, and life-altering experience.
But did it work? Kind of. It was visceral. It made me at first want to get away from the crowds and the noise, and then it made me want to go right back, to never be alone.
And all of it, really, was pretty. A combination of the colors from Slumdog Millionaire and the movement and effects from 28 Days Later.
Dare we say that Danny Boyle is an auteur? And can we watch anything he makes without thinking of his big smiling face at the Oscars?