Aron Ralston must challenge the unknown; not some phantasmagoria that lurks in the deep chasms of rock but in the dark night of his soul. Director Danny Boyle contrasts the rugged beauty of nature with the rock solid determination of one man’s will to live which becomes an emotionally charged soliloquy.
Boyle’s flash-cuts and split-screens become a nuisance early in the drama as Aron prepares for his journey while the pounding rhythm becomes as aurally intoxicating as a hangover. Aron’s departure is more like a commercial than a cinematic prelude with annoying product placements and buzzing soundtrack. Though one scene foreshadows Aron’s plight as his fingers dance towards his Swiss Army Knife which remains just barely out of reach, forgotten in an empty cupboard.
The premise is fairly simple and once the accident occurs, Boyle settles down into close-ups and utilizes flashbacks and surreal fantasy sequences to reveal Aron’s past and the guilt he carries like a two ton rock. Here is the power of the film as Boyle goes beyond showing what happened, a documentary could accomplish that task, but shows us the internal monologue as a brain physically ceases to function properly while it is forcibly willed into survival mode. James Franco is able to become this victim trapped not only between two rocks but inside of himself, the revelation of self-discovery. Franco is believable in every aspect; from first shock to aftershock. As he comes to terms with his possible death he realizes that selfishness was his true downfall and this challenge his resurrection: he is born again.
ceThe wonderful cinematography of Blue John Canyon reduces Aron to insignificance like the black ants that crawl through the dirt and across his skin, the deep blue sky an ocean smothering Aron with thirst. But the images become a bit too gimmicky and the music intrusive: it’s the long slow takes and the natural silences that propel this horrific climax towards its bone-breaking conclusion. The camera doesn’t shy away from the gore but neither does it linger, and it’s Franco’s excellent mimicry that makes the audience squirm as he saws away at grey flesh and severs nerves and tendons.
Aron lives because of luck and determination. He thanks his adversary and is fortunate enough to discover life anew and accept a helping hand.
Final Grade: (B)