My relationship between movie reviews and movies tends to vary based upon the movie.
If the movie is something I want to see for whatever reason, I tend to check the basic rating of the movie. How many stars did it get? B- or a D+? If the reviews seem to be in line with what I expect I’ll go see it without reading the details. But I will read the reviews afterwards, just to make sure I saw the same thing the reviewer saw, and to make sure it’s still a good place to get a guideline on future movies. If the reviews seem to be overly negative (or mediocre) I’ll read further to find out what the review thought went wrong to see if I still want to spend my money in a movie theatre or if I should wait for Netflix.
For the most part, this seems to work for me.
(There are the exceptions of the movie whose concept seem so awesome that I’ll see it no matter what. Or the movie that looks like it has enough style to fall into the Gloriously Crappy Movie category, but that’s the subject for another time.)
And since the reviews seemed to be overall positive, I saw 127 Hours without reading any of the reviews.
Overall, I really enjoyed the movie. There were times when I thought the movie was a bit excessive in its stylistic choices. Especially in the very beginning. (The ending, which mirrors the beginning, didn’t bother me.) But when you get past the introductory moments, it stops being so hyperactive, while maintaining some of the initial energy that keeps the movie moving even when the character is literally trapped in one place.
I cared about the character. Even though I knew that he got out alive, I cared about wether or not he got out alive. I hoped that each of his successive attempts to get out would work, so that he wouldn’t need to cut off his arm. Which eventually he did. And I found the scene to be graphic enough to make me squirm, without feeling gratuitous.
But the most important part for me was that I thought the movie did a good job of not over-moralizing his predicament.
I’m emphasizing this last point, for two reasons. First, some reviewers have criticized the movie for feeling like it didn’t have a point. Or that the movie felt shallow, because it didn’t really say anything substantive about Aaron Ralston’s experience except he got stuck under a rock and chopped off his arm. On the other hand, some people I know don’t want to see this movie because they, “Don’t want to watch a movie about a guy stuck under a rock and thinking about his life.”
The movie does have some moments of meaning in it, but they are understated. They exist, but you aren’t beaten over the head by them. The flashback sequences tend to be about the little moments in life that everyone can relate to. Which is what makes them work.
The movie focuses more on the ordeal than the meaning of the ordeal. For some, that will leave you feeling like the movie is shallow and lacking a purpose. For others, it will force you to find your own meaning in it, and you’ll appreciate it for that.
I fall into the second group.