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From Academy Award®-winning director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) comes the powerfully uplifting true story of one man’s struggle to survive against mountainous odds. Aron Ralston (James Franco) has a passion for all things outdoors. But when a falling boulder traps him in a remote Utah canyon, a thrill-seeker’s adventure becomes the challenge of a lifetime. Over the next five days, Ralston embarks on a remarkable personal journey in which he relies on the memories of family and friends--as well as his own courage and ingenuity--to turn adversity into triumph!
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If watching a movie about a guy getting stuck in a cavern, talking to himself, drinking his own urine and then mutilating himself is your thing, then you may like this movie. But for the rest of you, I doubt that you'll find this interesting enough to watch the full movie without pulling out your phone and start Amazon shopping in the middle of the movie.
Director Danny Boyle's wonderful new film 127 HOURS explores both sides of the story, resulting in a deeply felt character study that is riveting, exciting and paced like an action-thriller. While much of the movie is, by necessity, confined to a single location...it never feels claustrophobic or static. In fact, the film soars.
Boyle introduces Ralston as a happy-go-lucky young adult, apparently economically comfortable who is charming, helpful and utterly winning. He's also self-centered in the way only young adults with few economic or family cares can be. He does what it occurs to him to do. He's smart & funny. He's enamored of the great outdoors and of pushing himself physically.
And when his accident befalls him, those qualities help him survive and help him to self-reflect. He's trapped in a deep hole with just a few supplies. He in a deeply uncomfortable position and he's pretty clear-headed about just how much trouble he's in. His intelligence allows him to access his dire circumstances. His humor allows him to be bemused by himself and to leave some scathing videos of self-assessment behind. Boyle shows us the physical situation Ralston is in...but where the film truly succeeds is by showing us the psychological journey he takes. The two work hand in hand. As Ralston grows weary, tired, hungry and very thirsty, his mind begins to play tricks on him. In many ways, the film takes the old cliché of "his life passed before his eyes" and shows how Ralston's several days of dire, boring confinement allow him to see his life and to reflect on his successes and failures. He never weeps with despair over his fate...he is more bemused by his own hubris.
All of this is presented with tremendous visual flair. First, Boyle shows us the country...gorgeous and empty. You can see why a young man would want to bike and hike and climb all over this natural playground. He also edits with a feverish pace (not MTV-style editing, where you are asked to notice it, but in an organic way). The use of color is impressive as well... Boyle has always had a knack of using filmstock and processing to help him tell his stories. SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE showed this on a grand scale...127 HOURS on a modest but equally impressive level.
But I've save the best for last. Boyle has the impressive skills of the immensely likeable and instinctive James Franco in the role of Aron. He has a disarming ease in his performance. When we see the less impressive sides of Ralston, we never cease to care about this young man, because Franco has infused him with believable life and enthusiasm. It seems like a simple performance...but it's actually loaded with complexity. But Franco never labors over his acting...it seems to flow.
Everyone knows that Ralston amputated his arm, and those brief scenes are as brutal and hard to watch as anything I've seen on film. But they are NOT exploitative in any way. By the time this comes around, we're actually ROOTING for Ralston to succeed in his grim task. And the film is more about the journey leading us to this moment than the moment itself.
127 HOURS is a delightful surprise. Boyle is an outstanding filmmaker and Franco is a very capable actor...but they have taken the elements of what would sound like a rather lurid "TV movie-of-the-week" subject and turned it into a life-affirming, even uplifting drama. It's a must-see.
127 HOURS speaks well of the human condition. We may look at these circumstances and claim that we could never go to the lengths that Franco goes through to free himself. The truth is, we would. The truth is, we need people. We need to be connected. The beginning and ending of this film work together extraordinarily well. In the beginning, society looks crowded, loud, and obtrusive. By the end, we long for that crowded, loud, and obtrusive society that we thought we wanted to flee from.
I'd recommend watching this; it's not easy, but it's rewarding. Unfortunately, repeat viewings are not sufficiently rewarded, and there isn't much to gain from the Blu-ray version of this either. For these reasons, I'd suggesting renting this one off Amazon instead of buying it.
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