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Overall Rating
4.05

Awesome: 27.27%
Worth A Look59.09%
Average: 6.82%
Pretty Bad: 4.55%
Total Crap: 2.27%

5 reviews, 14 user ratings


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127 Hours
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by Erik Childress

"Getting Hooked Before Losing An Arm"
5 stars

SCREENED AT THE 2010 TORONTO INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: Anyone who might have heard me do commentary in the past on the films of the year on the radio in Chicago will know what I think of mountain climbers and various adventure seekers (both real and fictional) who put themselves in dangerous situations and then wonder why they get hurt. My feelings towards most of them, particularly the real-life characters who get movies made about their stories is rather strong. Some might even suggest inhuman. It may have been just a joke in Airplane, but I have said of the guys from Touching the Void, Man On Wire and who knows how many others, “they bought their tickets, they knew what they were getting into, I say let ‘em crash.” I then expected as much from the story of Aron Ralston, whom I may have uttered those very words when he was being touted as a hero during his media tour in 2003 after being trapped for five days between a literal rock and a hard place while canyon exploring. What I did not expect was to have such an insanely emotional reaction to his story in the riveting new film by Danny Boyle; a film where one man’s survival can be everyone’s salvation.

Aron Ralston (James Franco) has everything he needs. For a trek up to Blue John Canyon in Utah; a 100-plus mile drive, combined with a four hour-plus bike ride and Lord knows how many footsteps. Although comfortably self-reliant, Aron does meet a couple cute girls (Kate Mara and Amber Tamblyn) on his hike, whom he impresses with his knowledge of the area's nooks and crannies. After some swimming in a hidden lake and an invite to a party later that night, Aron is off on his own again. Scaling down one narrow canyon, Aron slips and in a freakish turn of fate finds his hand lodged between a literal rock and a hard place (incidentally the title of his book) with no one but himself to rely on.

Armed with a few hiking supplies, including a pocket knife, headlamp, and approximately 400 mL of water, Aron goes to work on trying to free himself. The rock is a stubborn one, heavy, immovable and as Aron surmises at one point, waiting for him its entire existence. Beginning to document his ordeal through his video camera, Aron quickly understands the gravity of the situation. Severe temperature drops at night with only a few direct moments of sunlight in the morning, a water ration in decline and a lack of circulation to his arm, Aron is smart enough to know that keeping his sanity is a necessity. But also that time is running out. To say goodbye. That is until he discovers this good tourniquet.

The focus on Aron's real-life ordeal began with the method he used to ultimately survive and the film teases us with how soon the moment will be upon us. This aspect will also no doubt be how people sell the movie to their friends; perhaps even daring the squeamish to keep their eyes open during some of the more graphic images. 127 Hours is no more a stunt film than it is designed solely for shock purposes. There is nothing discreet about self-amputation and to shy around it subliminally would lose the impact, though it is certainly not as in-your-face as anything on the surgery channel. It is the brilliant use of sound more than the visuals that will have you squirming through hope for its success. Getting those questions out of the way, a viewer aware of what is coming can then take hold of what this story is ultimately about and the masterful way in which it is told.

Boyle's use of accelerated images of crowds, workdays and general time during the opening credits suggest at first that Aron's journey into the void is a chance for man to reacquaint himself with the quiet beauty of nature. Or become one with it in a sense that Aron could never imagine. As he has time to reevaluate his life however it is clear that this opening - wonderfully called back during the climax - is about the everyday connection we share with others in this world wheter we recognize it or not. We go to work with them. We share space. We cheer for the same team. Aron has not rejected this concept. He has just become so comfortable in his own skin that he has taken everything else for granted. A co-worker he barely makes eye contact with during conversation. An ex-girlfriend (Clémence Poésy) he could never open up to. A family he felt there was always another day to call back. None of whom he told where he was headed.

Selfish? Certainly. But never maliciously so. His connection with adventure, history and the beauty of the areas he explores stems from his father (Treat Williams) at a very age, seen in a beautiful, simple flashback that clears up any predisposition that Aron is just another adrenaline junkie in it for the rush. It is his rediscovery of such connections that turn his predicament into more than just another metaphor for life. Boyle's partner in evolving this from a media-driven survival tale into a deeper examination of family is Slumdog Millionaire and Full Monty screenwriter, Simon Beaufoy. But his leader is without argument, James Franco, in a performance of such strength, anguish and character that it could be the standard of what cinematic one-man shows are judged against in the forseeable future. Charming with a toned-down arrogance at first, Franco then honors Ralston with a grasp on the urgency that requires the skills as a loner he has been preparing for his whole life and the slow realization that he is incomplete without the ones that he loves. The manner in which Boyle stages and Franco portrays his eventual march to the first people he has seen in five days is reminiscent of George Bailey's triumphant run through Bedford Falls in It's a Wonderful Life and no less powerful.

127 Hours manifests itself as an adventure story in the realm of real-life stories of heroism such as Alive and Apollo 13. But then deserves comparison to Robert Zemeckis' Cast Away for the unexpected power it wields on an audience for going on this journey with its trapped heroes. The first time seeing it, I was floored by the instantaneous emotional reaction I had to a pair of key shots in the last couple of minutes that put an immediate perspective on both Aron's and my own life. My second viewing I focused less on the survival aspects and more on the flashbacks that are key to cueing that climactic reaction; breaks from the in-the-moment reality that in lesser hands may have felt forced or just a tactic to provide some relief from the intensity. Instead they increase the tension as it gives Aron something worth living for. It may not be the atypical hero's journey, but if the boon he receives in the end is not a gift worth sharing with the world, then what is?

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=21321&reviewer=198
originally posted: 10/14/10 02:20:49
[printer] printer-friendly format  
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Toronto International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Chicago International Film Festival For more in the 2010 Chicago International Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Austin Film Festival For more in the 2010 Austin Film Festival series, click here.
OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2010 Telluride Film Festival For more in the 2010 Telluride Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

2/23/17 morris campbell awesome survival movie 5 stars
2/14/14 Jvujobxi Or even all scientists are concerned about developing wrinkles later binary options trading 2 stars
2/06/14 noCvoiPKAzmEwrnTc GpDrcqtayXEGSOAh 3 stars
6/12/12 laura cooke alright 3 stars
1/18/12 Marc DC Franco at his best... Powerful real-life story 5 stars
5/15/11 stephen nettles PURE MAGIC 5 stars
5/12/11 Simon As outstandingly done as such a simple plot could be. Many insights,and most strike a chord 5 stars
3/29/11 mr.mike Reminded me of "Into The Wild" and "Castaway". 4 stars
2/17/11 Narda another fulllenght videoclip by Boyle. 1 stars
1/21/11 action movie fan slow lacking in tension and suspense=a failure 2 stars
1/20/11 Martin WOW! Amazing how you can get attached to the lead in just 90 mins! 5 stars
12/05/10 Ken Pretty interesting story 3 stars
11/23/10 Flounder The film received a standing ovation at my screening. Boyle has done it again. 5 stars
11/05/10 PAUL SHORTT GRIPPING, INSPIRATIONAL, WELL MADE DRAMA WITH A GREAT STAR PERFORMANCE 4 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  05-Nov-2010 (R)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2011

UK
  07-Jan-2011 (15)

Australia
  10-Feb-2011 (MA)
  DVD: 01-Mar-2011


Directed by
  Danny Boyle

Written by
  Simon Beaufoy
  Danny Boyle

Cast
  James Franco
  Lizzy Caplan
  Kate Mara
  Amber Tamblyn
  Clémence Poésy
  Kate Burton



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