Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours is a perfect film school assignment. How to make a movie about a guy who is trapped by a rock—more specifically, a rock that pins his arm so that he can’t move from the brooding beauty of a remote crevice that threatens to become his tomb? It’s also a parody of the notion of individualism and independence. The character of Aron (James Franco) is as industrious as the actor who plays him, and whose hyperactive productivity has been widely documented lately. Aron is haunted throughout the action by the fact that he never returned a telephone call from his mother or told anyone where he was going when he set off on his own for the mountains. If he had told someone, they might have noticed he was gone in time to save him. The answer to the film school assignment, if you are not a student but legendary director Danny Boyle, is to have a flair for fantasy and for depicting the mind in a state of shock. The famous toilet sequence of Trainspotting is the embryo of Boyle’s style, and its swirling appears like a footnote in the scenes involving liquids, whether they be water or urine. On the matter of bodily functions, it’s lucky that the real-life character Franco plays was not a vegetarian, as he might have had qualms about drinking his own blood, as he does to survive in the movie. On the matter of fantasy, there are two kinds that the movie depicts: that which occurs in Aron’s head and that which is played out for the camera Aron uses to record his experience. At one point, Aron realizes his fantasy life when he masturbates while looking at a photo of a female hiker he’d met along the way. “This rock has been waiting for me its entire life, waiting to come here, right here. I’ve been moving towards it my whole life,” he says. Ironically, Aron’s statement is discountenanced by the sudden turn-around of his predicament that the movie so brilliantly portrays. One moment he is free, insouciant, daring reality, and the next he is totally humbled and reduced. There is no build-up, no intimation of the fate that will befall him, unless of course you’ve read the reviews.
[This was originally posted to The Screaming Pope, Francis Levy's blog of rants and reactions to contemporary politics, art and culture.]