127 Hours (2010)

As Aron Ralston finally arrived at the realisation that he might have to shed his own flesh in order to survive a truly incomprehensible situation, I doubt he paid much thought to who might play him in the eventuality of a retrospective film adaptation. The answer, in any case is, was to be Spider-Man‘s James Franco. 127 Hours, you see, is based on harrowing real events which saw mountain climbing daredevil Ralston lose his footing and fall into the depths of Blue John Canyon, only to be pinned down by the loose rock responsible. Having told nobody of his current whereabouts, Ralston must remain calm if he is ever going to get out of his potentially fatal predicament. Fighting starvation, dehydration and his own delirium, the climber must accept the loss of his crushed arm and find a way out – at any cost.

Prior to experiencing the ordeal that is 127 Hours, I could not quite fathom the claims that it had been over-directed by Danny Boyle. I was both unsure what the term meant and why exactly this was a bad thing: directing was – after all – Boyle’s job. Having finally watched 127 Hours, I now understand the thinking behind such claims, but remain unconvinced that such additional direction has in anyway harmed this, a truly outstanding piece of film-making. The narrative peppered with split-screens, flashbacks and assorted visual quirks, I firmly believe that it is because – and not despite – of this that 127 Hours is such a fulfilling cinematic experience.

Opening with a barrage of urban noise inter-cut with Franco’s escape to the great outdoors, Boyle begins his movie as he means to go on: with an unmatched mastery of visual imagery. As a series of breathtaking establishing shots – emphasising the isolation of Ralston as he bikes, climbed and fraternises with his fellow thrill-seekers – introduce us to Blue John Canyon, a truly labyrinthine network of abyssal crevasses and towering rock-faces, the audience prepares themselves for their protagonists unwitting fall. Disappointing in its lack of pomp and circumstance, the accident is less an event in and of itself than the conduit for a far more pragmatic trauma. Pinned to a canyon wall, Franco – in a truly sublime turn – poignantly conveys the anger, determination and eventual acceptance as he completes a mobility-hindered heroes journey and is forced to re-evaluate the numerous life decisions which have inadvertently lead him to this thoroughly desperate situation.

As a result of Boyles characteristically poetic imagery and ironic song choices, we are able to see his desperation and hear his increasing delirium first hand:  a barrage of drinks brands beautifully convey Ralston’s inescapable thirst, while the juxtaposition of desperation and ditty relay his wandering mindset and increasingly untethered consciousness. As his hallucinations become more vivid and he starts to see himself and his friends and family in the dark, the film pivots from a tale of morality and comeuppance to a celebration of survival and optimism even in the face of overwhelming odds. That this subtly portrayed revelation leaves more of an impression than the controversial amputation scene just serves to illustrate the power of Boyle’s directorial flourishes and Franco’s transcendent performance.

Chronicled across a series of last-ditch recordings which document Aron’s fluctuating mental state, ever-dwindling water resources and a series of personal confessions, the transformation from unlucky every-man to superhuman survivalist sells Franco’s Ralston as a sympathetic human being after his decidedly audacious and over-confident introduction. No longer a victim of his own recklessness, the final act of 127 Hours races through the gore in a pulse-pounding pursuit of salvation. Although Boyle does little to gloss over the gruesomeness of Ralston’s wince-worthy sacrifice – his sound-effect accompanied attempts at severing the nerve proving particularly unpleasant – the preceding scenes have built enough momentum to carry even the most squeamish members of the audience through the trauma and into the light. Excruciating to watch, the relief which Franco positively oozes as he stumbles to freedom quickly abduct your thoughts from the remnants of his arm still unceremoniously pinned to Ralstons’ would-be resting place.

As thrilling and claustrophobic as easy-comparison Buried but without the contrived confines of a single location and real-time pacing, 127 Hours is a traumatising but ultimately therapeutic character study . Concerned more with the enlightenment of a reckless risk-taker than the prices paid for such an epiphany, Danny Boyle’s latest is a compelling, engaging and counter-intuitively uplifting slice of his characteristically visual brand of master storytelling.

About popcornaddiction
I am a psychology graduate, a News Writer for HeyUGuys/BestforFilm and, most importantly, a hopeless popcorn addict.

3 Responses to 127 Hours (2010)

  1. Pingback: January 2011 – It’s on like Donkey Kong « popcornaddict

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  3. Pingback: Ten 2011 movies that can’t come quickly enough « popcornaddict

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