I had such mixed emotions when this movie came out. On the one hand, I was so excited to see it because the trailer looked incredible and I have an undying love for all things James Franco. But on the other hand, I was seriously scared, the way I used to get when I was a kid and was next in line for the front seat of a scary looking roller coaster. I wasn’t sure how well I’d handle the material that had people passing out at early screenings.
127 Hours is the true story of adventurous thrill seeker Aron Ralston, who spent 5 days with his right arm pinned under a boulder in Utah. This movie seemed to boil down to one important question- can James Franco carry a movie almost completely alone? The answer is a resounding yes. Franco’s performance is engaging and incredible. As Aron, his time trapped is spent alternating between being incredibly resourceful and daydreaming about all the things he should have done (for instance, tell someone where he went) that would have changed things. However, I think the film suffers because the end is known. Every moment spent with Aron as he’s trapped is coupled with a level of anxiety, waiting for what is to come. There is a daydream sequence where it begins to rain and Aron’s boulder is lifted away, freeing him and allowing him to escape. But we know the whole time this isn’t real- this isn’t how the story ends. The anxiety that sets in while waiting for the inevitable end result is so overwhelming that when the end does come, it’s a huge relief. It’s an incredible story, but the film remains distinctly average. The whole time I felt as though any moment it would push into being as amazing as it’s lead actor and as inspiring as its source material, but it couldn’t quite clear that hurdle.
Ever since the Academy implemented it’s 10 Best Picture slots, I like to look at selections and determine if I think they’d have been nominated in a 5 Best Picture year. This movie would not have been; it’s definite bottom 5 material. While it boasted a fantastic performance, it just couldn’t build off of that to make the film into something memorable as well. Because it doesn’t do it’s inspiring source material as much justice as expected, I don’t think it’s a strong contender in the Best Adapted Screenplay category.
As for Best Actor, in another year, James Franco might be a frontrunner. His performance as Aron is the best thing about this film. Unfortunately, he has some steep competition and as a first time nominee, he likely won’t take the award home.
The music, both Original Score and Original Song, evoke touching images and match Aron’s spirit and emotion throughout the film. But despite being inspirational, neither are unique enough to stand out amongst the contenders.
One thing the film does get right is its energy, and that is conveyed best through the editing. It’s music video-like beginning captures Aron’s liveliness, and as the film wears on, we are brought in and out of Aron’s thoughts and mind. There are big players in the Best Editing category this year, but the Academy could choose to honor the film here.