In April 2003, adventure sportsman Aron Ralston (Franco) heads into Utah's Blue John Canyon for a day of hiking. He meets two girls (Mara and Tamblyn) along the way, and stops to show them a cool underwater lake. Then he heads on his own into a narrow slit in the earth where a bolder falls and pins his right arm against the wall. Unable to move, he spends the next five days pondering for the first time his own humanity and mortality. And after trying everything imaginable, he only has one option left.
We know he survives because Ralston lived to write the book that this film is based on. And while a movie about a guy stuck in a narrow gorge might not sound very interesting visually, Boyle is more than up to that challenge. The result is a white-knuckle rollercoaster that takes us deep into Ralston's psyche until we share the experience with him. Yes, it's shattering, but it's also exhilarating to watch. Although "watch" isn't the right word for this film.
"Experience" is more like it.
Boyle is ably assisted by ace cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, who capture the landscape with real gusto, mixing bold textures, colours, light and shadow so vividly that we can feel it. While the flashbacks and fantasies weave together in a seamless stream of consciousness. And with music touching on just about every conceivable genre, AR Rahman has invented a fresh new way to score movies.
But the heart and soul of this film is Franco, who delivers one of his most fully invested performances (which is saying a lot) as a man whose almost overpowering joie de vivre is tested beyond all reason. Charming, funny, terrified and quite literally at the end of his tether, Franco takes us down to Aron's core. By the end, we're actually rooting for him to do the unthinkable.
And that's the sign of masterful filmmaking.
Run time: 94 mins
In Theaters: Friday 28th January 2011
Box Office USA: $18.3M
Box Office Worldwide: $35.7M
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight
Production compaines: Warner Bros., Fox Searchlight Pictures, Pathé, Everest Entertainment, Cloud Eight Films, Decibel Films, Darlow Smithson Productions, Dune Entertainment, Big Screen Productions
Contactmusic.com: 5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 93%
Fresh: 201 Rotten: 14
IMDB: 7.7 / 10
Director: Danny Boyle
Starring: James Franco as Aron Ralston, Kate Mara as Christie, Amber Tamblyn as Megan, Sean Bott as Aaron's Friend, Koleman Stinger as Aaron Age 5, Treat Williams as Aaron's Dad, Kate Burton as Aaron's Mom, Bailee Michelle Johnson as Sonja Age 10, Rebecca C. Olson as Monique Meijer, Parker Hadley as Aaron age 15, Fenton Quinn as Blue John, Lizzy Caplan as Sonja Ralston, Clémence Poésy as Rana, John Lawrence as Brian
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