This is definitely one of my favorites of the year. Although I didn't think about it at the time, I have to agree that this movie wouldn't have worked with a very serious actor like DiCaprio. Franco is fantastic in it, and I was relieved that I got to laugh a lot throughout this experience. There's one moment in particular that was probably one of the biggest laughs that I've had at the movies ever. And without all that, I'm not sure I would have given a shit about any of this, or at least would have preferred to read what's been written about the incident instead of watching a movie about it.
There's one interview with Boyle (maybe I read it here) where he says that he really wanted the audience to feel like they would have done the same thing as Ralston did. I think Boyle succeeds here. At least, for me, I was cheering him on while the deed was being done, and was very happy to see him get free. Lots of people were definitely having a hard time watching it, though. But because the movie was so much more about life than death, you really get the sense that it comes down to his arm or his life.
I particularly identified with Ralston's selfishness, and when he calls himself out on it, I suddenly felt like he was talking to me. Maybe it's a part of being a 20-something guy who pretty much has always had access to everything he wants (not in terms of material goods, but as far as doing what I want to do with my time), and feels like he can do it all on his own. I mean, just recently I went to Burning Man and didn't tell a bunch of people. With no phone signal there and no Facebook updates, my parents and family began to worry, of course. And the only reason I didn't tell them where I was going was because I wasn't really thinking about anything but my own enjoyment.
The movie hasn't really changed that about me, but it's helped me to spend a little bit more time thinking about it. It put into my mind the very lofty goal of maybe someday being not such a selfish asshole. It's very rare for an "appreciate your life" movie to really work, but I think that part of why this movie at least succeeds in getting me to think a little bit more about the way that I live my life is because it never pretends to be anything it isn't. That is, it's a movie about a dude who gets his arm stuck and after 5 days, cuts his arm off to get free, and 80% of the movie is exactly that. Its focus on what it is allows you to pull so much more from it than if the movie got too philosophical and preachy for its own good. It keeps pushing in instead of pulling away in order to hammer in the message that we all already knew that the story had anyway. So it doesn't waste time on those things. There's really only one or two actual flashbacks that I remember, with most of the scenes (except for the opening) that aren't him trapped under the rock being hallucinations, which actually take us further into his current experience rather than getting all nostalgic.
Anyway, all very smartly done; a hilarious and horrifying experience that will likely stick with you.