James Franco rocks. Pun intended – but only sort of, ‘cause I’m gonna go out on a limb here and predict that Franco will get a best actor nomination for his role as gutsy mountain climber Aron Ralston, who cut off his arm to escape sure death in a Utah canyon in 2003. Ouch.

There’s always something a bit anti-climactic about movies based on true stories. But 127 Hours still manages to deliver 95 minutes of intense drama, thanks to Franco’s mesmerizing performance and superb direction from Danny Boyle who struck Oscar gold with Slumdog Millionaire in 2009. 127 Hours isn’t quite the ‘total package’ that Millionaire was, but it is a really good movie. It feels a lot like Cast Away – just substitute Franco for Tom Hanks, and a narrow canyon for Hanks’ deserted beach.

I’m a bit squeamish when it comes to blood and gore, so I found myself bracing for the requisite ‘arm-cutting’ scene (really – that’s not a spoiler). Thankfully, it goes a lot faster in “movie time” than it did for Ralston in real life, which just makes it all the more fascinating to watch (through the fingers covering my face) and to contemplate. I can’t imagine finding the presence of mind and body to survive five days with my arm pinned by a boulder in a dark crevice of a massive canyon. Then again, rock/mountain climbing isn’t really my thing. So odds are, I’m in the clear where that’s concerned. But still, you gotta wonder…

127 Hours is based on Ralston’s 2004 autobiography, “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”, and I’m definitely tempted to read it  for additional insights into his ordeal, but I doubt anyone could do a better job than Franco in capturing Ralston’s admitted cockiness, spirit of adventure and survival instincts.

Franco is one of those versatile actors who seem to thrive on shaking things up and keeping his fans guessing. He’s equally comfortable taking on roles – large and small- in comedies, dramas, action movies, and even soaps (though his recent stint on General Hospital – as a crazy artist named “Franco”- has been downright weird). I suspect that Franco will keep shaking things up with his choices – even if he wins the Oscar. ‘Cause onscreen and off, James Franco appears to be one cool dude.

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