Wednesday, November 24, 2010
You’ve likely heard the expression “between a rock and a hard place,” but you’ve probably never thought about it the way it happens in 127 Hours.
Or maybe you have: The film is based on the real experiences of outdoorsman and survival guide Aron Ralston, here played with Oscar-worthy grit and smarts by James Franco. In April 2003, after hanging out with two fellow outdoor-loving females (Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara) while canyoneering in middle-of-nowhere Utah, Aron falls down a crevice. After a moment he realizes that a large boulder has pinned his arm against a rock wall, and because the women are gone and he didn’t tell anyone where he was going, he has little hope of rescue.
Director Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire) smartly shows off the vast beauty of the desert and keeps an up-tempo, product-placement heavy pace in the first third of the movie, as obviously things slow down after Aron is trapped. But that’s not to say it gets boring; on the contrary, it’s fascinating to see Aron logically think through his options and try to keep his cool. Boyle’s movies tend to have a vivid, immediate quality to them, and the heightened sounds (such as swallowing water), quick cuts and close-ups help emphasize the importance of every decision Aron makes.
Franco does a great job of using Aron’s knowledge, instincts and intelligence to stay alive. We go inside Aron’s mind as he distracts himself from the reality of the situation by thinking of family and loved ones, and he also sadly says goodbye to his parents via a video camera. These moments are alternately touching, funny and sad, and Franco is so engaging that we easily lose ourselves in Aron and his predicament.
When he figures out how to free himself, be prepared for five of the most brutal, tough-to-watch but exhilarating minutes you will ever see. In fact, enough people have fainted during this sequence that we can safely call it the “fainting five”; in full disclosure, it made me nauseous and I broke into a cold sweat. It was the nerve that got me. You’ll know what I mean.
There are some movies that are so powerful, vivid and impactful that seeing them once is more than enough. The Passion of the Christ and The Pianist were excellent dramas, but watching them takes such an emotional toll it’s difficult to find the desire to see them again. Now we can add 127 Hours to that list, and it may be the best of the bunch.
When 127 Hours ends, you’ll feel like a weight has been lifted from your chest. It’s intense, suspenseful and exhausting to watch, and it’s only 94 minutes. Even better, it leaves you asking, “What would you do?” to your companions, and the truth is it’s an impossible question to answer. Unless you’re Aron Ralston.
Did you know?