Friday, November 12, 2010

Review - 127 Hours

Aron Ralston has always loved the outdoors. Every chance he has is off seeking adventure and thrills. Whether that be rock climbing, mountain biking or cliff jumping Aron is constantly hunting for a new rush. When Aron finds himself trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone in Utah, he must resort to extremely drastic measures in order to survive.

Endurance, fortitude, discipline, ingenuity and devotion are all traits that human beings possess within them. Traits that are not always tested on a day-to-day basis. "127 Hours" is a peek inside one man's harrowing near-death experience that tested each of those traits and furthermore his will to live.

"127 Hours" is in every way a survival tale. It also is a journey into one man's psyche. The character of Aron is faced with over 3 full 24 hour periods of pure isolation on a limited supply of water and food with his arm pinned. As the hours tick by Aron is brought closer and closer to the edge of death. Along his slow breakdown we are taken through a fabulous journey into Aron's relationships or lack thereof. To the credit of screenwriters Simon Beaufoy and Danny Boyle along with the aid of Aron Ralston's book "Between a Rock and a Hard Place," the viewers are taken through a touching and emotional thrill ride of Aron's emotional, psychical and mental spectrum.

This is where the skills and charm of James Franco come in. Franco is outstanding here. He does a impressive job of carrying 94 minute film essentially on his own. Franco as Aron comes across at first as something of a arrogant ass. Well maybe not so much an ass, but full of him self. Very self-assured not to mention a loner. At the same time Franco as Aron is someone you'd look up to. A jock that always had a leg up on you or the guy that always got the girl. Now while there are moments where Franco's character rubs you the wrong way, it is all leg work to build a transformation of his character that the audience gets to witness in a first person and testimonial perspectives.

Which brings me to the manner of which "127 Hours" is filmed. Most of the movie comes from the perspective of Aron's handheld camera. Like other found footage thrillers most of best moments come from these scenes that feel and look so real. Mainly because we can connect with them. Most of us have fooled around with handheld cameras and recorded little monologues are adventures. Seeing that same practice utilized on screen draws us in to a polarizing character on a enthralling vacation that turns into a dire and desperate situation. It feels real and it feels tangible. It is something that could potentially happen to any hiker or rockclimber.

Cinematographers Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak unite to bring a similar look that Boyle has brought to his previous films but add some epic new shots that just left me in awe. The perfect example the a crane shot that pulls back from Franco stuck in the crevasse all the way up to what look like some 1000 feet up in the sky. Absolutely breathtaking and furthermore did a perfect job of hammering home how isolated Aron was.

A.R. Rahmon returns to Danny Boyle's universe to deliver us yet another moving score. Both electric and soothing Rahmon captures the desperation of Aron's situation. I absolutely loved the pieces he created through Aron's visions and moments fading in and out of reality. Rahmon is a genius and here he does another fabulous job with the score for Boyle's 9th feature film.

"127 Hours" is brutal moments. It is well documented that Aron Ralston cut off his own arm in order to survive this ordeal and Director Danny Boyle does not hold back at all. You can feel Aron's pain in this movie and it very well could have a negative effect on the audience. With all the recent trends of overtly violent torture horror films I myself did not find the blood here to be all that repulsive or offensive. Maybe I'm desensitized, but that isn't too say it doesn't do the job. It is highly effective. Boyle in essence teeters the line between gratuitous gore and thoughtful exploration of the traumatic event.

In the end "127 Hours" is a testament of our desire to live. The lengths our bodies can go through and still survive. Director Danny Boyle does a fabulous job of taking us through the journey. Not only that but so too does James Franco deliver a powerful portrayal of the brave soul who did survive. "127 Hours" is tragic and painful to watch but more than that it is uplifting. It is a thrilling example of one man's ultimate test with fate.