127 HOURS, 2010
127 Hours is the true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston's (James Franco) remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale a 65 foot wall and hike over eight miles before he is finally rescued. Throughout his journey, Ralston recalls friends, lovers (Clemence Poesy), family, and the two hikers (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) he met before his accident. Will they be the last two people he ever had the chance to meet?
Release Date: 5 November 2010
Maybe you have already heard the story. If so, then Danny Boyles’ exceptional film about the final one-hundred and twenty-seven hours Aron Ralston spent with his right arm will engage your attention as a doomed man’s defiant need for survival. The 2003 incident is an unprecedented example of Man versus Nature and demonstrates Man’s extreme ability to sacrifice his own flesh and blood. If you are not familiar with Aron Ralston and the horrendous circumstance imposed upon him in the Utah canyons, well, sorry, but I pretty much blew the ending for you.
When the story broke in the summer of ’03, the public reaction to Ralston’s act of self-mutilation ranged between genuine astonishment and undeniable disgust. The graphic solution to his dilemma was an evident symbol of Man’s will to live. But it did not make the means to achieve this victory any less grotesque.
It seemed unbelievable that any sane person could actually withstand the pain and visual horror of those final, bloodletting hours. Some critics considered Ralston a fool for failing to tell anyone of his whereabouts and thus, creating the isolation that led to his tortuous confinement.
In a center-stage performance that will likely wrangle recognition from the Academy, James Franco plays Ralston as a likable and spirited sportsman. He plays the character with effortless charm and resilient strength. And make no mistake; this character will be the first one to admit the folly of performing a dangerous trek into the Blue John Canyon without a safety or back-up plan. As Ralston’s delirium approaches madness in the second half of the movie, Franco wins huge laughs as he mimics the scenario by imagining himself as a televised interviewee. Considering that the real-life Ralston in fact made numerous media appearances following his accident, the scene is raw with biting irony and prize-winning facial expressions.
The film is also shot quite beautifully. And that should be no surprise to anyone who has stepped near Moab’s labyrinth of bike trails. The cinematography, supplied by Enrique Chediak and Anthony Dod Mantle, is majestic. As Ralston’s mental state deteriorates over the next five days, the depiction of the secluded cave is both mysterious and austere. At times, you wonder if Ralston would not prefer to exist alone in this disturbing arena of rock and sediment permanently. That is, if it wasn’t for that damn rock!
It is rare to be part of an audience that empathizes so closely with a movie’s central protagonist. While sitting in the theatre where the film premiered at the Austin Film Festival, one could clearly see the level of discomfort felt by the majority of the audience. Ralston’s tortured screams were accompanied by involuntary winces. Several people in the audience kept stretching their arms and legs to escape from feelings of claustrophobia. When the film screened at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, some audience members required medical attention after witnessing the climactic scene. And similar reactions were reported at the Toronto International Film Festival.
As mentioned earlier, if you don’t know the story, it is best to remain ignorant and experience the movie’s suspense to it full potential. But if you do already know the outcome, you should still watch this movie, not because of Franco’s engaging performance and not because it is such a vivid and visually impressive film.
This is a movie that rewards its viewers by digging deep into the protagonist’s vulnerable psychosis. In the 94 minutes that comprise “127 Hours”, we may not get to know everything about Aron Ralston’s secretive past. But it is easy to identify with him. In ways that did not really work for Emile Hirsch’s Christopher McCandless from Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild” (which was also based on a true story of a hermitic outdoorsman’s journey into Hell), Franco’s Ralston makes friends with the audience members and calmly invites them to share the torment of his fateful hike. And these people will not sit still once Franco and Boyle present the reality of that 127th hour.