James Franco received his first Oscar nomination for portraying Aron Ralston in 127 Hours.
This could easily be said a one man show for Franco, for almost the entirety of the film. I would say this is actually more of a two man show, Franco for one, Danny Boyle the director the other, since this a very much a director's picture in the way, Ralton's situation is portrayed with the many directorial flairs, such as constant cuts, and many fantasy sequences.
The camera certainly does not just sit on Franco and stay there, instead it moves about many times anywhere but just on him. Franco at the beginning properly sets up the thrill seeking way of his character, showing a lot of life in Ralston. Also in his early scenes were he helps out to female hikers, Franco has a great deal of chemistry that works well in the role.
Soon enough though he finds himself trapped behind the rock, leaving his physical movements rather restrained for the rest of the performance. He is required to show Ralston's slow physical disintegration from being trapped. Franco is fine in this aspect, but it is not anything that I found to be truly stunning.
As a sort of one man show I think Franco does do a good job, of keeping your attention on him, and with him, as he goes through his dreadful experience. I won't say you feel what he feels, but Franco does express Ralton's painful situation quite well, also Franco does manage to stay interesting despite being completely stuck on the rock.
In much of what the film shows about Ralton's life, and his feelings I do feel are expressed heavily by Boyle's direction, which sometimes even overpowers what Franco is trying to do in the role. When Franco is given the spotlight though Franco certainly handles what he has well, even if in a rather simple fashion in some regards.
When he must express regret over his life he does, pretty well in fact, but I always had the feeling that it was always the build of the direction around him that brought the emotional payoff than Franco himself. Franco most major scene I think is his moment where he interviews himself, Franco is entertaining in that scene, and he is good in it, but again the scene works more do to the direction that because of Franco.
At the end of the journey of Ralton's I will admit I felt an emotional rush, but in the end it was only partially due to Franco, in the end it really did come from the direction precision in bringing this moment more than Franco's performance reaching this moment. Do not get me wrong, Franco is good, and acts well as the emotional beacon used by the director, but I cannot say his performance was amazing or the best thing in the film.