Rated: R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images
Length: 94 min
Rotten Tomatoes: 93% favorable, 8.2/10 average
Budget: $18 million
Box Office: $65 million (18 U.S., 39 Intl., 8 DVD)
Written by: Danny Boyle (First Script) and Simon Beaufoy (Slumdog Millionaire, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, Yasmin, and The Full Monty), based on the book by Aron Ralston.
Directed by: Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire, Sunshine, Millions, 28 Days Later, A Life Less Ordinary, and Trainspotting)
Starring: James Franco
With: Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara
A loner and adventurer finds himself trapped in a hiking mishap and must eventually cut off his own arm to escape in this true story.
Entertainment Value: C-
I think this is a case of something being over-hyped to me, and so what might otherwise have been compelling was only average at best. I had seen Aron on Minute To Win It, where he told most of the major elements of the story during the course of the show. So, in spite of it being made about as well as I can imagine, I was much less engrossing than I expected. I was wanting it to be over for the middle of the film, not because it was unpleasant, but because I was bored. Also, although I am sure James Franco did a fabulous job of portraying “before-Aaron,” “after-Aron” is so much more compelling as a person that I was irritated by the character in the movie. Finally, the theater ending gave me almost no resolution for the big issues. This is one of those rare times when watching this on DVD was totally worth it because the alternate ending was tremendous to the point of almost rescuing me from an even worse grade. The stuff about his child and his mom and even his other relationship were so much better and brought meaning to the otherwise mostly just fact-telling account. I am completely baffled why they went with the bare-bones ending.
Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol B, Sex/Nudity B, Violence D, Language D
The opening song has an F-word within ten seconds of starting. Then, there are a handful of F and milder profanities throughout the movie. At one point, there is a scene which seems to be leading toward masturbation, but it doesn’t happen. There is some beer drinking in flashback/imagined scenes. But the big issue here will be the overall aspect of watching him become ever-more dehydrated and the gory violence in the scenes of him severing his arm and thereafter. It’s pretty unpleasant to watch, but I think well done, given the difficulty of making the pain real without just becoming pornographic gore.
Significant Content: C
People who think they don’t need anyone else are mistaken. We all have regrets about how we’ve mistreated or neglected people, and sometimes it takes facing our own death to help us realize it. Hope is the one thing that can keep you going through impossible circumstances. It’s okay to be adventurous, just tell people where you’re going.
Artistic/Thought Value: C
One thing I found fascinating about the movie was how, even though I knew the impossibility of the situation, it took perhaps half an hour for me to overcome my mental impulse to try to “solve” the problem of how to move the rock. It just seemed so inconceivable that it could really be undoable. And so I must give the movie credit for conveying that sense of powerlessness. The other thing I hadn’t realized previously was that at a fairly early point in the events, his hand was already a complete loss. So the decision to sever it wasn’t about choosing keeping or losing the hand, but only about how to unshackle the body from the already-destroyed thing keeping him shackled to the rock.
~Aron never prays to God in this movie, at least not that I recall. Does this seem strange to you? What would you expect from someone in this situation with respect to prayer?
~From God’s point of view, what do you think He might have intended this particular set of events to accomplish? In what ways was Aaron humbled or changed as a result of this event?
~Did you find it frustrating that there was no way for Aron to solve the problem of being stuck? Did you notice yourself continually trying to figure it out as I did? Why is that?
~One of the deleted scenes talked about “soloing,” which is doing adventures like this on your own. Why do you think soloing is so appealing? Why do you think Aaron continues to do this even now?
~In the Bible, Jesus says that it is better to cut off your hand or pluck out your eye if they cause you to sin rather than to keep them and go into hell. Do you think this story is a useful illustration of this concept?
~If you think of his arm as something that was lost, it’s easy to find this a tragedy, but if you think of his life as something that was gained, it’s easy to find this a triumph. Which is right? Is there any factual difference between those two perspectives? How are these two opposites representative of more common events in our own lives?
~Do you think “after-Aron” would have done anything different in his encounter with the girls than “before-Aron” did?
Poignant or memorable scenes:
~The opening scene where he avoids answering the phone and fumbles around unable to find his Swiss Army Knife.
~Locking up the bicycle on the tree. What do you make of this?
~The ongoing clash between Aaron going out into the beauty of nature but listening to this harsh, aggressive, and loud music while doing so. Does this seem strange to you? Is Aron missing or ruining something by soloing this way?
~The imaginary morning show interview. What insights about his own arrogance is Aaron dealing with at this moment?
~The final scene finding the people. Why is it so tremendously symbolic that Aaron’s first words were, “I need help?”
Overall Grade: C
A competently told version of an amazing real-life story, but both less engaging than I had hoped for and far less meaningful than it would have been with the alternate ending available on the DVD.