127 HOURS (2010)

Running Time: 94 mins.                      Rating: 2 Stars/5 Stars

MPAA Rating: R

Director: Danny Boyle

Genre: Adventure/Biography/Drama/Thriller

Country: USA

Language: English

Distributor: Fox Searchlight

Cast: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara, Treat Williams, Kate Burton, Clemence Poesy, Lizzy Caplan

Some actors will give their right arm for a showy role, James Franco figuratively does so. Danny Boyle, Fox Searchlight’s golden boy director (SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, 28 DAYS LATER), misfires once again (see SUNSHINE) as he attempts to make interesting the true life story of a narcissistic engineer/weekend outdoorsman whose arrogance costs him more than his pride on a weekend jaunt through Blue John Canyon in Utah’s Canyonlands National Park.

The plot is simple, a guy goes out alone to mountain climb/canyoneer.  He tells no one and has an accident (his arm gets pinned by a boulder).  He spends days trying to get loose and has to commit the ultimate sacrifice, cut off his arm to save his life.  End of story.

Based on Aron Ralston’s best-selling memoir ‘Between A Rock And A Hard Place’, Boyle directs the film with rigorous flamboyance ala his classic TRAINSPOTTING (jump cuts and throbbing music tracks with tv commercial montage techniques thrown into the mix) instead of like Nicolas Roeg’s WALKABOUT which would have made the film much better.  I wonder how Ozu would have directed this.

Engineers are usually anal retentive (with respect to what they do it’s not a bad trait).  With this in mind, I was baffled why Aron would not prep his hike bag in advance with his trusty Swiss Army knife, pitons, a rock hammer, sturdy cord, a whistle, a mirror, a GPS device (maybe that was in his fancy watch) and a portable ham radio.  He has bungee cord and carabiners but not a rock hammer to pound pitons in (but then, he forgot them too).  As a regular back country explorer Aron would have known about Wilderness Protocol with respect to ham radios where every hour on the hour on certain bandwidths listeners tune in for 5 minutes to monitor the airwaves for any potential distress signals.

As an engineer I was surprised it took until Day 2 for him to attempt to McGyver his way out.  Aron jerry rigs a pulley utilizing climbing ropes to lift the boulder, which fails.  Then again, he spent the first day trying to use his unencumbered arm and shoulder to push the boulder to no avail.  Like a dumb ox (or male) he tries to use brute strength long after common sense should have prevailed.  His continual attempt to chip away at the boulder using a crappy knife, with side commentary about the low quality of Chinese manufacturing, would have made sense if Mr. Engineer remembered a little detail – stress points.

Thankfully the film is not 127 minutes of dilettante emoting on Mr. Franco’s part.  I’m waiting for the over-rated wunderkind to perform Hamlet doing all the roles simultaneously.  See the film for the beautiful country but if you plan to visit, like a boy scout, be prepared.

If you like this recommendations: Into The Wild, Grizzly Man, Stranded: I’ve Come From A Plane That Crashed On The Mountains