At one point Aron Ralston, arm trapped under a rock, muses that since the day he was born the rock had been waiting for him. It’d probably been poised for eons and the chance encounter with Ralston precipitated its, and his, fall. What can you do, other than philosophise, in a film when the central character doesn’t move for over an hour? In addition, most of the audience will know what happens; Rolston is credited as the writer of the book on which Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle wrote the screenplay. Indeed, so extraordinary is Rolston’s story that many will probably remember it being reported in 2003. What can you do to make so much that is known thrilling?
Boyle is renowned as a ‘kinetic’ director; maybe the plot’s stasis attracted him. But kinetic the film is and he brilliantly pulls off the trick of making this film riveting; greatly aided by James Franco. Like Touching the Void (UK, 2003) the film takes us, vicariously, to the edge of existence, in a Poe-like desire for the extreme, but allows our characters to return. There can be very little more thrilling than that; other than ‘falling in love’ as in a romance.
It’s not a film for the squeamish but it’s certainly not played for Saw-like gore. And the inevitable conclusion is truly moving. Unless 2011 is much better than last year, this film is already ensconced in the top ten.