Today we bring you a special movie review, one that is not supernatural but one that was nominated for a Best Picture Award this year. 127 Hours starring James Franco.
127 hours will be recognised by some as the 2010 film showcasing the vibrant style of director Danny Boyle as he sets to explore the remarkable courage and determination of the human spirit, a film based on the true accounts of adventurer Aron Ralston, played by James Franco, a film that has been nominated for a number of awards included the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actor in a leading role (Franco) and the Oscar for Best Motion Picture of the Year, to name a few. For others however, I will answer your question in saying yes; this is the film that shows a guy cutting off his own arm. Between a rock and a hard place is the name of the book on which the film is closely based and this title cannot be more related to the plot, not only hinting at the conundrum facing a man in the wake of death, but harbouring a very literal significance as well. Eccentric young adventurer, Aron Ralston embarks on a spontaneous trip into the isolated canyons of Utah to escape the claustrophobic confines of city life.
While exploring the familiar terrain, his vast knowledge of the region and mountaineering expertise perpetuate a lazy confidence which sees an amateur mistake turn fatal. Casually striding his way through the cracks of the canyon, Ralston misjudges an unstable rock, leading to a short and sudden fall that ends with his arm being pinned between the inside wall of a crevasse and a newly wedged boulder. Once again relying on his expertise, Ralston is quick to grasp the severity of his situation, concluding that the chances of rescue in the extensive mess of landscape are close to impossible. With a limited supply of food and water and enduring a constant exposure to the elements, 127 hours becomes a countdown to that one inevitable moment where the roads of insanity, fear, desperation and courage simultaneously meet.
Through his previous works (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire) Danny Boyle has been chipping away at a niche involving a dynamic style of filmmaking which focuses on a variation of editing techniques that not only provide aesthetic value but also play an important role in highlighting central themes. The opening scene of 127 hours for example, uses a split screen to suffocate the audience with generic images of consumerism, advertisement logos, commercialised products and overcrowded city streets, all the while documenting Ralston’s movements as he makes minimal preparations for a swift escape into the night. From the moment Ralston’s car can be seen leaving the city lights behind, a sense of anticipation triggers any cinema audience to collectively hold their breath since events that are to come are at no point a secret. In fact, Boyle seems to prey on our prior knowledge, making us shift in our seat every time an energised Ralston jumps, drops, reaches or leaps through the canyon maze.
The concept of this film reflects a challenge for any director and it is a challenge that Boyle overcomes by assuring that there is more on offer than 94 minutes of staring at the back of Franco’s sweaty head. Although the character remains physically immobile, he is able to journey through the open door that is his mind. These moments of self reflection explore memories from Ralston’s past and even premonitions of an uncertain future, coming together to captivate the audience and maintain our interest. The seemingly random sequences of images provide an insight into Ralston’s character beyond the extraverted adrenaline junkie we first meet. As the seconds count down, tension builds as Ralston’s mind becomes laced with hallucinations, blurring the line between insanity and constructive thought. We are left wondering what it is that finally leads him to a literal breaking point.
As for the long awaited cutting of the arm, the scene remains graphic but not grotesque which indicates the direction Boyle has chosen for this film. While the concept of this story has the cinematic potential to shock an audience into submission, many conventions of claustrophobic filmmaking are deliberately avoided. We are constantly granted leave from the confined space and taken on a journey that seeks out the uplifting message behind the film, a testament to human spirit. Any of Ralston’s actions that could be considered pathetic, sick or desperate are coloured with a playful tinge including the inevitable severing of the limb which comes as a celebrated moment of triumph. An arm is lost, but life has been gained.
What could be a sickening film about the torment and torture of the world outside the safety of our living room is instead an uplifting exploration of courage in the wake of death. Boyle interprets tragedy with cinematic flair complimented by Franco who keeps us grounded to the hardship of the situation by exhibiting his amazing ability to convince us of his pain with the most subtle of expressions. 127 hours is an interesting take on survival, certainly more entertaining than some other films of this type and is an achievement that deserves every bit of the attention it has received.