Review: 127 Hours (2010)

I originally had zero interest in seeing this film.  I don’t hate James Franco; he just never struck me as particularly enjoyable to watch.  I watched him mostly in Freaks and Geeks and he was just there (I had a crush on Seth Rogen, but that’s another story).  When I saw the trailer for this film, I knew what it was about, essentially, and I knew it was based on a true story, but it really didn’t register in my head to care.  I didn’t think about how long 127 hours really was.  All that went through my head was, “To make it realistic, he’s going to have to go to the bathroom at some point.”

My friend J.J., with whom I am constantly getting in arguments over films, informed me that it was a terrific film.  Unfortunately, I’m stubborn, and I so enjoy annoying the crap out of J.J., so I refused to see it.  However, around Christmas my parents began gushing to me about how spectacular it was, and they managed to plant a little seed of curiosity.  By that time, though, 127 Hours was no longer in theaters!  I had to endure this ever growing, gnawing desire to see it while friends at work gushed about its beauty and wit.

After it was nominated for Best Picture (and James Franco for best actor), the movie was brought back to L.A. theaters, and, huzzah, I was able to see it.

For those of you that do not know, this film is about an amazing and inspiring man, Aron Ralston, who, while trekking out into the Blue John Canyon in Utah without informing anybody where he’d gone, has an accident wherein he gets his arm caught between a canyon wall and wedged boulder.  After being stuck for over 5 fulls days, Ralston has to decide whether he will resort to desperate measures or starve to death.  The film is based on Ralston’s autobiography, Between a Rock and A Hard Place, which I am currently reading.

I suck at watching gory films.  I spent the majority of my time while watching the Saw franchise covering my face with my hands and cowering under my blanket (I watch them for the stories, so sue me).  After watching all 7 of those films, I thought I had trained pretty hard before attempting to watch 127 Hours.  Just to be safe, I brought along a little stuffed frog Dan won for me at a carnival.  Even though Dan was at work, and couldn’t go see the movie with me, I thought it would be good to bring a little piece of him…to suffer along with me.

When the film approached the most intense part of the film, I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking that I was well prepared.  However, when the gore started, I slapped that frog over my face while screaming in my head, “It’s worse than Saw!  It’s worse that Saw!”

Traumatizing scene aside, the film is fucking gorgeous.  I had to buy it on Blu-Ray because there is no other way to watch it.  The colors are vivid and breath-taking.  The fine details in the mis-en-scene add a dimension to the film which gives the eyes something to enjoy while the body feels just as trapped as Ralston.  Small environmental details, like a breeze blowing dust across the dirt floor or a thin shaft of sunlight making its way through the canyon maze draws the audience into a scene that nobody but the real Aron Ralston has experienced.

Even more entrancing is Director Danny Boyle’s effort to illustrate Ralston’s descent madness as he is trapped like an animal.  I can not fathom the thought processes a person would go through in such a situation.  Hell, I start screaming when I get my head stuck in a turtleneck.  To what lengths could the average person go just to survive?  Would a person starve to death rather than suffer excruciating pain at his own hands?  How unhinged does a person have to be in order to allow himself to take desperate measures to save his own life?  Boyle uses several different techniques to pull the viewer in to the minefield that is Ralston’s psyche such as a montage of refreshing beverage ads representing Ralston’s extreme thirst.  My favorite part was where Ralston thinks he hears something at night in the dark in the cavern behind him and he uses the flash of his camera as a light.  When the bulb goes off, a giant inflatable Scooby-Doo is standing behind him, and then with Scooby’s trademark cackle, it disappears.

I know that the threat of a little bit of mental discomfort is enough to turn some of you off the prospect of seeing this film, but I’m telling you that you are doing yourself a disservice.  This movie is a breathtaking example of storytelling genius.  With an extremely likable, albeit flawed hero, this film grabs hold of the viewer, and it doesn’t let go until the moment Ralston is free of that awful rock.  The catharsis in the end is worth the shit the movie puts you through.

127 Hours
Director:  Danny Boyle

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