Tuesday, April 12, 2011

"Top of the Queue Review" - 127 Hours

Set in 2003,  the film 127 Hours depicts five days in the life of Aron Ralston, a man who lives in his own private world, and the mountains of Utah are his escape and his life.  Biking and climbing around them, the canyons are his second home.  He knows his way around them like the back of his hand and runs around, over and under the wide cracks and crevices with complete confidence.  He is a loner, but still eager to help other climbers who might be lost, especially when they are a couple of college girls.  James Franco manages to capture the introverted loner aspects of Ralston while also showing the fun loving, outgoing parts of him as well.   The film got six Oscar nominations including a well deserved one for Franco as well as a Best Film nomination.  The film is based on the autobiography that Ralston wrote about the events.

Now, usually when you see a movie you don't know what is going to happen, but for this movie, unless you don't remember the news stories that surrounded the real event that is depicted, or live under a rock, you know where the film is going and exactly what is going to happen.  Much like the film of Titanic I suppose.  Still, that didn't stop me from enjoying the film or seeing the beauty in the world the film explores.
So, spoiler alert for those of you who have been living under a rock for the past several years: Aron falls deep into a narrow passage, getting his hand and lower arm caught between the canyon wall and the large rock that fell into the crevice with him.  His right forearm is crushed and immovable, and with little water left, he also realizes that he didn't tell anyone where he was going.  For five days, or 127 hours, he is stuck there and realizing he will die unless he does something, he ultimately uses the extremely dull knife he has to amputate his forearm to free himself.

Danny Boyle, the Academy Award winning director of Slumdog Millionaire, brings an eclectic and explosive visual style to the film.  Using a loud rock score, stunning visuals and a completely dedicated performance by Franco, the film pulls you into Aron's world, his thoughts, his feelings and his dreams.

The beginning of the film shows the majesty of the canyons and you understand why Aron is drawn to this place.  Even when he is trapped Aron still finds the beauty of the sun falling into the crevice and dancing on it's walls.  I was completely amazed with how the film shows how Aron is able to think what he needs to do to survive like how he measures the rationing of his water and how he uses the supplies in his backpack to assist him.  How he keeps himself warm and invents a pulley system out of his climbing ropes are just two of the interesting things the film shows.  He also uses his video camera to record a personal diary of the events.  Franco is amazing in his ability to show his feelings and thoughts on his face, as when he is trapped there is minimal dialogue.  Franco vividly displays the pain and fear but also the intense joy and, yes, even humor you realize one must go through when trapped the way he is. 

The film has a claustrophobic feeling for the 2/3 of the film when Aron is trapped, which perfectly makes you identify with Aron's predicament.  And once the desperation and dehydration set in, the way the film depicts Aron's hallucinations in a fantasy and dreamlike style is pretty beautiful, completely visual and wonderfully cinematic.  

But the film doesn't make him out to be a hero in all regards, just someone whom is resourceful and realizes the errors of his ways and the mistakes he has made. After all, loners in the canyons have huge downsides especially ones who bounce around the cracks and crevices like Aron does and don't tell anyone where they are going. 
The film does lag just a bit in parts, so I wouldn't exactly say it was one of the Best Pictures of last year- but it is worth seeing for Franco's performance, the visual and aural qualities and the documentary like feel of what really happened to Aron.

Treat Williams, Amber Tamblyn and Kate Burton do appear in cameos with Williams and Burton as Aron's parents (and Broadway connection- I've seen Burton on Broadway numerous times) - but they are very small parts, the film really is 95% Franco- and he delivers on all fronts. 

The moral of the story? 
#1 - Don't give up

#2 - Make sure to leave a note.

The film is very intense for the last 10 minutes - so beware if you're squeamish.

Trailer for the film

Interview with Aron Ralston -

Amazon link for the 127 Hours [Blu-ray]

Amazon link for the dvd of 127 Hours

1 comment:

  1. Great synopsis/review, I agree totally. Very intense film, very worthwhile seeing it. And one more moral -- bring along another human or at least a working, charged up cell phone, AND A POCKET KNIFE!