Sunday, May 1, 2011

Review: 127 Hours

127 Hours was the film that started the series, "I'm Most Excited About". It's actually part of what got me back to writing on this blog at all, and I finally saw it.

Despite the common misconception, the film is
not actually 127 hours long.
127 Hours, directed by Danny Boyle, stars James Franco as the mountaineer/climber Aron Ralston. Ralston drove into Utah's canyons one weekend to hike a trail he knew well. It just wasn't his weekend. He slipped and fell into a canyon; a boulder came tumbling down with him and pinned his hand to a rock wall. Ralston was trapped. He had limited water, virtually no food, and only rope, carabiners, and a pocket knife as tools. He knew he was going to die. After five days he was waterless, severely dehydrated, and his hand was decomposing still attached to him. His only choice is to slice through skin, snip nerves, sever arteries, and saw through his muscle to amputate his own arm.

This movie was amazing. Remember when I Am Legend came out, and everyone was like, "Who wants to watch a movie of just Will Smith wandering around?" This concept is kind of like that. 70 of the film's 90 minutes are of one guy trapped in the bottom of a canyon. He literally cannot move from that spot. So what's so interesting about it? 

This guy.
James Franco owned this movie. First off, can we talk about how awesome James Franco is for like two seconds? This guy in running at a breakneck pace through life. He's an extremely successful actor who has worked on comedies, as well as several Oscar award-winning films, not to mention - oddly- General Hospital. He has a Bachelor's Degree, a Master's Degree, and has been accepted toYale University to earn his PhD in literature and creative writing. He's attended schools for a degree or just for the hell of it, including UCLA, Columbia University, NYU, and now Yale. He acts, directs, produces, and writes. He's had a book published, hosted the Oscars, been named Sexiest Man Alive, hosted Saturday Night Live twice, had his art displayed in LA art galleries, produces funny home videos for the comedy website Funny or Die, and frequently paints. He's obviously brilliant. 
Also he looks like this
Franco took this role, and became putty. He molded himself to not fit Ralston, but to become him. When the dust settles after his fall and he realizes he is trapped, that moment of realization? The horror in his face is unbelievably awful. You feel his desperation, and his pain, and when he films his last goodbyes to his family you aren't seeing a close-up on James Franco; you're looking into the eyes of a dying man.

So. James Franco. Also 127 Hours is brought to you courtesy of director Danny Boyle, who also directed the 2008 international megahit Slumdog Millionaire. These guys slaved away for hours on a set the size of Harry Potter's closet-room at the Dursley's. The set was so claustrophobic that Franco resorted to the not-weird-at-all behavior of hiding his textbooks near him so he could remind himself during breaks that he wasn't actually going to die on the set. As I've explained to you before, Aron Ralston did actually film himself hallucinating, recalling memories, and saying his last goodbyes. The footage is so disturbing and so personal that it has never been released to the public. Only Franco and the director were allowed to review the footage to accurately portray Ralston and his state of mind.
Which was pretty much "[every cuss word evar] + I AM GOING TO DIE"
Boyle does a fantastic job of breaking from Franco to show us his hallucinations, to relive his memories, to truly let the audience have this experience with him. As he is an audience to his own recollections, so are the viewers. I noticed a deliberate use of sensual elements to convey a sense of time and place to the audience. The use of color, the super-saturation or the absence of sunny color is a superb storyteller, as are the sound effects- slurping water, echoes, and the like.

The idea is to trap you in that canyon with Ralston. You are supposed to feel this experience with him. Because the story isn't about him being trapped, it's about his escaping. The guy epic-ly cuts off his own damn arm with a dull pocket knife, after breaking the both bones of his trapped arm because he knew he couldn't chip through them with his blade. He is still stuck in the bottom of a canyon with a bleeding stump of an arm, but manages to get out of the canyon, rappels down a cliff, and starts hiking out of the desert. Dehydrated, hemorrhaging, and starving.  
The tourniquet and knife Ralston used to amputate his arm
In the video below the real Ralston describes his experience of being trapped....

This film is something you should see if you can stomach a little gore. Honestly, I was expecting a nasty, splurting (I just made up that word) gorefest of an amputation, and that's not at all what it is. This is a film about hope, about humanity, about adversity, about triumph. You shouldn't miss it.

Director: Danny Boyle
Length: 94 min
Rated: Rated R for language and some disturbing violent content/bloody images.
See the IMDb page here


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