Danny Boyle has followed up Slumdog Millionaire with this at times excruciating, at times funny, and always taut film based on the real life story of adventurer Aron Ralston. You certainly remember this story from the news. It was unbelievable when we read it, and it’s even more unbelievable to watch a film of it. I don’t often turn my face away from the screen, but when the showdown between man and a little thing called survival came, I almost had to.
This is another film that I passed up initially, having no interest in seeing it. Then it began to pop up on some best lists, and garnered some nominations, including 6 Oscars and 3 Golden Globes. Although it didn’t win in any of the categories for which it was nominated, they were certainly well deserved. The acting of James Franco, it could be argued, was one of the best performances of the year. And Danny Boyle’s direction was special. Before he went alone in the hills, Ralston was shown as a sassy, manic, high-spirited young man – and Boyle’s direction matched the pace of Franco’s manic, driven personality. Then (after he met two young women out hiking in a sort of interlude for Ralston – a beautiful segment) he was alone and the pace slowed, and then the tension ratcheted up. After all, as I said, you knew what was coming. Yet, the tension stretched and stretched to the snapping point. Oohh. Bad metaphor. Snap!
While he was trapped, Ralston began a video of his predicament. At one point as he imagined himself as the guest on a radio talk show, he began to interview himself. It was an epiphinal moment, as he talked himself to a level of self-realization he was unprepared for.
Great filmmaking from a story that you wouldn’t think would make a great film.