The true story of mountain climber Aron Ralston's (James Franco) remarkable adventure to save himself after a fallen boulder crashes on his arm and traps him in an isolated canyon in Utah. Over the next five days Ralston examines his life and survives the elements to finally discover he has the courage and the wherewithal to extricate himself by any means necessary, scale down a 20 metre rock wall and hike several kilometres before he is finally rescued. While trapped, Ralston remembers friends, lovers, family, and the two hikers he met before his accident - perhaps the last people he'll have ever seen.
Review by Louise Keller:
There's a raw quality to the emotions in this tense and harrowing film that leads us to the edge - of humanity, sanity and to a place far beyond our comfort zone. Considering the subject matter of this real life story of how an adventurer cuts off his own arm to save his life, Danny Boyle has constructed a high voltage, claustrophobic film in which we become totally immersed in the reality. In fact, we almost get lost in it. Superb and imaginative filmmaking canvasses not only the situation at hand, but ricochets into the complexities of personality, personal choices, regrets and recognition of what makes Aron Ralston the person is he - always alone, even when in a crowd. Based on Ralston's book Between a Rock and a Hard Place, the film is a bit like extreme sports - inebriating but not for everyone.
Boyle's film has a frenetic energy that mirrors the mindset of its protagonist, played to perfection by James Franco, who is in almost every scene. When we first meet his Aron Ralston, we quickly get a feel for how he lives his life - selfishly and alone. He's an adrenalin junkie who thrives on speed, music and the night. His destination is the middle of nowhere in the rugged Utah wilderness, where ravens fly overhead and the sun beats down on the unforgiving rocky landscape. His camera (to which he talks) is his preferred companion - even above two pretty girls who he momentarily befriends, although we always get the impression that he is showing off, as he leads them through the trickiest, most dangerous parts of the canyon. He lives for thrills and for the moment.
Things change and intensify as Aron becomes trapped in a narrow crevice, with an age-old boulder pinning down his right arm. Just think, he tells himself, but he is as insignificant in the landscape as the insect that scampers over the arid soil. There's a sense of helplessness as his reverberating and echoing cries for help go unheard. Split screens and impressive cinematic effects show us flashbacks into his life involving his parents, a special girl and friends, taking him deep into a reflective state, where he evaluates his life and the circumstances that brought him to this moment.
The pivotal scene is bloodied and confronting. I had to look away. We know the story has a happy ending (of sorts) but so real and involving is the experience, it is hard to discard the emotional angst - even when it is over. Production values are excellent and the bleak, harsh landscape looks sensational as A.R. Rahman's pulsating music score hypnotises us. With the claustrophobia of Buried, the austerity of Into the Wild and the confronting edge of Touching the Void, this is not a film for the fainthearted. A cup of hot, strong tea might be in order after seeing this film - or something considerably stronger.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Getting the girl against all odds is one thing, but surviving against all odds stuck in the remote Bluejohn canyon of Utah is another - but both journeys make heroes of their protagonists and Danny Boyle's follow up film to Slumdog Millionaire is a sobering switch in tone. Comparable in some cinematic and thematic ways to Touching the Void, 127 Hours recounts not only the physical but the mental and emotional journey that Aron Ralston had to endure. James Franco delivers a remarkable performance under the most gruelling and challenging conditions, stuck to a cave wall for most of the time, one hand and arm out of action, restricted space and facing intense emotional demands.
It's harrowing in some parts and even more harrowing in others; the desperation that Ralston feels must translate to the audience if the film is to work, and Boyle, together with his Slumdog cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, go to extraordinary lengths to make this happen.
The film is the story of Ralston's misadventure; nothing more and nothing less. But in the process of losing his physical freedom, Ralston finds his internal compass and has time for self reflection, which leads to a self-confessional and a wake-up call about his behaviour. This is not overplayed but it has an important role in the film's texture.
The technical aspects of making this film are worth exploring because more than most, the film stands or falls in the execution - as well as the performance. The latter was informed but not limited by the real life Ralston's collaboration and encouragement. The former needed filmmaking prowess - and endurance. Franco was squeezed into tight spaces in the replicated canyon set, suffering bruises, scratches and rashes. But the film crew had to think creatively to capture the essence of what Boyle wanted, and to somehow maintain momentum in a basically static drama. They succeeded, and made a film that etches into our psyche with its extraordinary elements.
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127 HOURS (MA)
CAST: James Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn, Sean A. Bott, Treat Williams, John Lawrence, Kate Burton, Rebecca Olson, Parker Hadley, Lizzy Caplan
PRODUCER: Danny Boyle, Christian Colson, John Smithson
DIRECTOR: Danny Boyle
SCRIPT: Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy (book by Aron Ralston)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Anthony Dod Mantle, Enrique Chediak
EDITOR: Jon Harris
MUSIC: A. R. Rahman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Suttirat Larlarb
RUNNING TIME: 93 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: 20th Century Fox
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 10, 2010