Tuesday, January 4, 2011
I am going to try to keep the blog this year on the movies I see in theaters. This will make it easy for me to keep track of what I have seen and be able to share with anyone that asks me my opinion. We are three days into the year and it is starting off great. I am going to be trying to catch up with the movies from the last couple of months that will be up for awards. I was a bit leery about 127 Hours because there is clearly a tough scene in the movie for anyone to get through. It is not a spoiler to mention it since this is a true story and the events in it were widely reported, but as important as it is I don't want to draw attention to it at the expense of everything else in the movie. This film is about so much more than the dramatic climax of the movie. There is inspiration, humor and hope in many of the moments that lead up to that event. There is also despair, sadness and a sense of loss.
The world is full of people that live in a different culture than mine. I love the outdoors but I am not an outdoors man. Nature is amazing, but I can enjoy it from the car window or a convenient picnic table. I use to backpack when in high school but we never went off the grid like so many extreme sports people do. I think they are a little crazy, but more power to them. Aron, the adventurer in this story is a guy that will casually drive out to the middle of no where in the middle of the night, and then ride his bike out even further. He is not really irresponsible but he is impetuous. He is well equipped for what he plans on doing but the plan clearly does not go as planned. I was impressed by the drive he shows and the moxie that the hikers he encounters show. They all are a lot more energetic than I am, One of the great things about movies is they let you see worlds you would not encounter in your normal experience. The canyons they explore and the area that he bikes through are really beautiful. It was a little odd to see the disclaimer at the end that tells us that no one should be biking in this area, I suppose that this is why Aron leaves his bike at one point but it was sort of interesting.
Danny Boyle, the director of this movie has make several films that I have enjoyed and admired immensely. I have not been able to bring myself to see Trainspotting, but almost everything else he has made is something I spent some time with. This movie is such a simple story, that you wonder how it can be turned into a film at all. The title tells you that you are waiting for a climax that is a long way off. Trying to make that interesting is where the challenge for the film maker comes in. They succeed admirably, with a long introductory section prior to the accident that left our hero trapped. Then they kick it up a notch with a combination of memory, hallucination, dreams, and video clips. All of them are haunting, some of them are truly disturbing, and one of them becomes the catalyst for the desperate act that saves Aron in the end. That whole vision provides the heart of the movie. As a character, Aron is likable enough and cute in an offbeat sort of manner, but he is a blank space that each of us can project on and the when we do, we are likely to lose hope. It is when Aron projects a future that we have our hope restored. I am a sentimentalist. I am moved by songs, images, stories and words. To me a movie succeeds if it can effectively move me and this movie did.
James Franco is very effective at taking a part that is eighty percent visual in nature and making us believe it. The sections where he has dialogue are worthwhile, but it is his face and body language that makes this performance special. He is helped by great use of camera and lighting as well as visual effects that enhance the mood but do not replace our main focus on the man at the center of this story.
Actors are peculiar creatures, they practice skills that each of us use on a daily basis, but they have to do it in artificial conditions. The pretending also has to fit with the story telling instead of being histrionic in nature. Franco does what is needed exceptionally well. When the horrifying scene finally arrives, it is all the more difficult for us because we have taken this journey with our lead.
I don't know that this movie will have a high repeatability quotient to it. I want to share it with my friends and family, but there are aspects of the story that might be hard to go through multiple times. If the admiration and awe that I felt at the end of the movie is any indication, those who see this for the first time will be glad they did. I hope that when I see it again, I can be moved in the same ways. That is the true test of this kind of film for me, will I be as inspired the sixth time I see it as I was the first? I hope so.