The first thing I did after watching 127 Hours in the theater was to hit up IMDB to refresh my memory on director Danny Boyle’s previous efforts. Of his movies that I’ve seen, I happen to dislike 28 Days Later on many levels and I think Sunshine started out really strong before it plummeted into mediocrity a little after the halfway mark. That I think so little of these movies was surprising to me because I absolutely loved 127 Hours.
The movie is based on the story of Aron Ralston, a man who became trapped in a rock canyon and was forced to sever his own arm to escape. It’s good source material to say the least and, with this in mind, my two main concerns going in were: can a movie that primarily depicts a man inside a canyon for over five days possibly be entertaining? and, based on testimonies of people fainting in theaters, just how gruesome is the amputation scene going to be?
Having seen the movie, I realize now that those two queries are almost irrelevant in context of what movie is really about.
So yes, aside from a brief opening where our lead goes swimming with two girls and brief flashbacks sequences later on, the viewer spends most of the time in the film with Aron Ralston, as portrayed by James Franco, in a claustrophobically small canyon. In fact, it’s only after his arm is initially trapped that the title of the film appears on-screen, as if to tell the viewer ”here is where this movie really begins.” The movie clocks in at 94 minutes and I’d guess about an hour or so is spent in that canyon and, to answer my earlier question, not only is it thoroughly entertaining, it is downright enthralling. Some of it has to do with Boyle’s decision to keep the runtime relatively short but most of it can be attributed to his unquestionable deftness as a director. The movie employs odd camera angles and unconventional cuts and transitions along with sporadic use of video filters to depict different viewpoints (camera, video camera, Ralston’s POV, etc.) and all of this helps keep the movie visually arresting.
But it’s ultimately Ralston’s plight, his progressive mental deterioration and his subsequent catharsis where the film really shines. It’s a shame that moviegoers have put so much emphasis on the limb severing aspect of the film when, in reality, that’s only the end point of a life changing experience for Ralston and Boyle’s depiction of this is what truly makes the film fantastic. The line ”this rock has been waiting for me all my life,” as uttered by Ralston towards the end of his journey in the crevice is an extremely powerful one and the realization this brings to him is the culmination of one of the most exquisite character arcs I’ve ever seen put to film. All the visual cues that had been laid down come full circle and Ralston’s liberation, both mentally and physically, is poignant, emotional and inspirational.
Indeed, 127 Hours is a veritable rollercoaster of emotions. Fear, sympathy, convulsion, elation and unknowingly gripping at the edge of my seat are but a few of the things this film put me through and it’s James Franco that cements that connection between film and audience. His Ralston is put through as much as the audience is (and then some) and it’s his acting that makes so much of the film come across as believable and honest. It’s a stellar performance by an actor that I, to be honest, didn’t think had it in him.
But do I question at times how different my reception of the film had been if it hadn’t been based on a true story. I’m certain that one of the reasons why 127 Hours is so powerful is the knowledge that this happened to a real human being. Not to discredit the outstanding work of the director, actors and film crew but I wonder if the movie would’ve worked as well if it were entirely based on fiction. It’s an intriguing thought but one that, at the end of the day, is not worth spending too much time on. The movie works because it does, in fact, tell the story of the real Aron Ralston, and it does so without deifying him or turning him into something he’s not. It’s the story of a real person with flaws and the unfortunate set of circumstances that led him to become a better man. It’s a movie that’s absolute worth your money and time.
At the fear of turning this into tagline central, I will promptly end this review with the following: 127 Hours is the best movie I’ve seen this year.Posted on December 19, 2010 in Movies, Reviews |