Title: 127 Hours
Director: Danny Boyle
Cast: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Clemence Poesy, Kate Burton.
Length: 94 mins
In 2003 Aron Ralston is a skilled mountaineer, canyoneer and extreme sports enthusiast was solo-hiking in Blue John Canyon in eastern Wayne County, Utah, just south of the Horseshoe Canyon Unit of Canyonlands National Park). To give you an idea of the sort of person Ralston was and still is I can tell you that he was the first person to climb all 53 of Colorado's mountains over 14,000 feet in elevation, solo, in winter. It was project that he started in 1997 and completed in 2005, two years after he lost arm.
However, back to 2003 and the story of his time in Blue John Canyon. While canyoneering Ralston fell and was trapped by a boulder, weighing 800 pounds that pinned his arm to the canyon wall. Trapped in the canyon crevasse, unable to move the boulder or chip away enough of it to free his arm, he was forced to spend five days thinking other ways to extricate himself whilst hoping to be rescued. He suffered from hunger, dehydration and hallucinations, before intentionally breaking his own arm in two places and then using a blunt knife to amputate his arm to free himself.
British writer/director Danny Boyle took on the challenge of adapting and directing Ralston's personal memoir entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place to produce a the film 127 Hours. It’s a truly amazing story about survival and how Ralston managed to overcome all of the obstacles that he came up against and ended up loosing his right arm but personally, mentally and spiritually, I think, gaining so much more. So extremely strong was Ralston’s will to live that he simply didn’t give up, even against the heavy odds. Lack of water, fatigue, dehydration, nothing stopped him from trying to survive and escape.
James Franco manages to effortlessly convey Ralston’s genuine, warm, charm and also his reckless and carefree nature. Franco manages to imbue his portrayal of Ralston with likeability, resilience, resourcefulness and even humour. Franco’s performance is exceptional as he manages to carry the entire film on his own. Often the supporting player, here, Franco is given the chance to be the lead. He has impressed audiences the world over. I am sure that 127 Hours will have had increased audience interest thanks to Boyle’s most recent film Slumbog Millionaire having done so well, attracting not only large audiences but also attention at the Oscars of which it won several. Franco’s performance is indeed Oscar worthy.
Ralston was trapped for five full days so there is a lot of time for Franco to fill. The film of course is only around 90 minutes long but Ralston is trapped for about 70 minutes so some of the time is taken up by flashbacks to his family life and to friends and his ex-girlfriend, hallucinations of Scooby Doo and fantasies of cold drinks. These moments are full of Boyle’s cinematic skill and directorial flair.
The film is well paced (and viewers will be able to appreciate that deleted scenes, although interesting and shedding more light on Ralston as a person were best left on the cutting room floor to aid the speed and flow of the film) and the direction is as you would expect from Boyle both inventive and powerful.
As for special features on the DVD, the deleted scenes, as mentioned, are good but correctly deleted to aid flow of the film. There is a red carpet featurette that includes interviews with director and star. The presenter is irritating but the information conveyed by Franco and Boyle is interesting. I'd have liked more special features. I'd be interested to find out if the blu-ray had any more over that on the DVD. There was also a small amount of footage with the real Aron Ralston, I'd have liked to have seen some more of this. Overall the special features are disappointing but that doesn’t detract from the film.
127 Hours is a difficult film to watch. It’s enjoyable and inspiring and I’d certainly watch again. Not straight away after seeing it though. Actually after seeing it I thought immediately that I wouldn’t want or maybe even be able to watch it again so much of an endurance trial the film itself was. Honestly I felt as though I needed a rest after an hour and a half watching this film. It almost felt like 127 Hours, emotionally at least. But after reflecting on the film for a short while I knew that I’d want to see it again. In fact the same evening I re-visited a few key scenes so taken was I by Franco’s performance and Ralston’s predicament.
The pain that Ralston feels throughout the film is palpable. Viewers will feel the pain of the amputation of his arm in their gut. Deep down pain. It’s not for the squeamish but viewers should try to put aside fears of blood and gore and watch this film anyway. The blood and gore is actually minimal, it’s more psychologically affecting.
Franco plays the role of Ralston perfectly. The direction and music are exceptional. 127 Hours is a complete success.