Drama based on a true event
Perhaps you remember hearing about this story in the news.
Aron Ralston is a mountain climber. Back in April 2003 he went hiking in Blue John Canyon in Utah without telling anyone where he was going. During the hike he dislodged a boulder and fell with it into a crevice, where the 800 pound boulder pinned his arm to the wall. After spending six days trying to free his arm, out of food and water, he ends up cutting his arm off with a dull knife, rappelling and walking out of the canyon, and is rescued.
I don't think telling the gist of the story counts as a spoiler, this was big news in May 2003, and the film is basically billed as that story.
Written and directed by Danny Boyle, director of "Slumdog Millionaire," "Sunshine," "28 Days Later," "The Beach," all of which I've seen and enjoyed, plus "Trainspotting" and a few other films.
Stars James Franco as Aron Ralston. Franco was in "Freaks and Geeks," Harry Osborne in the Spider-Man films, in the newest Planet of the Apes flick, and a bunch of other films. Most likely you'd recognize him.
I'd heard plenty of positive buzz around this flick, especially going into the Academy Awards season. I still remember the news stories about the incident because it was quite an extreme act of self-preservation, and various news stories were quite detailed in describing his ordeal. But I still wasn't convinced I wanted to see it, or I would at least wait until it hit the movie channels circuit. There was that slight niggling thought in the back of the mind about how the heck could a film about the event successfully fill an hour and a half and be interesting?
Well, I got an answer. My wife wanted to see it sooner.
We don't just see the build-up to the arm-trapping boulder and his struggles to free himself, we get to see depicted the memories, imaginings and hallucinations he experienced while trapped. The story actually does unfold in an engaging way and delivers quite a punch in the end. Kudos to Danny Boyle. He did good with this film and met the expectations I formed based on enjoying his earlier works.
I especially liked the no-nonsense approach to the film. Very little seemed contrived or overly fictionalized for the film. I'm sure some of that happened to some extent, it's practically unavoidable in any drama based on real-life events, but its overall feel was quite authentic.
The film starts off at a good pace, slows a little during the middle, then slams it home at the end. Only one continuity editing issue stood out to me early on, just a minor thing. Great location shooting and framing. Franco's performance was quite good.
For me the film was well worth watching and much more engaging than I had anticipated. The payoff at the end is worth the time getting there, and the time getting there does a good job putting your brain in a place to feel relief and elation when he is rescued despite knowing the basics and conclusion of the story ahead of time.
If you do choose to watch the film, the arm-severing event is graphic, so be prepared if you are a weak-stomached sort.
The IMDB trivia page has some interesting tidbits of info. Especially because the film is based on a true story of recent occurrence. What stood out to me especially is this quote:
When Aron Ralston was asked how how authentic the film was, he said, "the movie is so factually accurate it is as close to a documentary as you can get and still be a drama."It was also interesting to read that the camcorder Franco (as Aron) talks to in the film when he's recording messages to his family is the actual camcorder that the real Aron used when he was trapped.